Telstra cops record consumer rights fine

·1-min read

Telstra has paid a $1.5 million penalty after the communications watchdog found it failed to provide consumers with the opportunity to keep their existing local phone number when changing telcos.

The infringement notice, related to what is known as "local number porting", is the biggest ever issued by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Telstra suspended most of its local number porting operations from late March 2020 after the COVID-19 outbreak impacted its offshore operations.

As a result, more than 42,000 services could not be moved from Telstra to other telcos - or vice versa.

ACMA found Telstra unilaterally cancelled transfer requests that were scheduled to occur and stopped accepting new requests.

This was done without prior warning to other telcos who were left not being able to help new and existing customers to transfer their service while keeping their phone number.

Telstra resumed porting in July and did not clear the backlog of requests until October.

ACMA chair Nerida O'Loughlin said home and business users had been impacted by Telstra's action.

"We appreciate Telstra had difficulties due to COVID-19 and we took this into account in our enforcement actions, including the size of the financial penalty," she said.

"However, it is clear Telstra did not have sufficient plans in place to continue to comply for a length of time with an important consumer safeguard that promotes competition in the telco market."

The telecommunications giant is not out of the woods yet.

Telstra could face further penalties if it fails to comply with an ACMA direction under the Local Number Portability Industry Code.

The previous record fine of just over $1 million was against Woolworths for a breach of spam laws.