Telstra cops $300,000 fine for ‘repeat customer safety and privacy failures’

Telstra has been hit with a $306,360 fine from the Australian Communications and Media Authority for “failing to provide accurate details of thousands of customers” in a manner that could compromise their safety and privacy.

The issue revolves around the Integrated Public Number Database, which is used by emergency services to help locate people who dial 000, and to warn residents of bushfires or flood. It is also used by the police.

Under the under the Telecommunications Act, all telcos are required to upload accurate customer details for each public phone number to the IPND.

In addition, silent numbers must be listed as such, to avoid accidental publication in directories.

In 2021, the ACMA found “systemic issues with Telstra’s compliance with IPND rules”, issuing the telco with a $2.5 million fine for failing to comply with its obligations on “nearly 850,000 occasions”.

Telstra committed to a compliance program, however fell short again the following year.

ACMA’s second investigation found Telstra “failed to provide accurate customer information to the IPND on more than 19,000 occasions between October 2010 and August 2022, including around 600 occasions where silent numbers were incorrectly flagged for listing in directory services.”

ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said Telstra has further work to do before it is compliant.

“Telstra needs to focus on completing the program and making sure it is fully compliant with these rules,” O’Loughlin said.

“The IPND is essential in a crisis when emergency services or police need to contact or locate people in harm’s way.

‘We will keep Telstra focused on fixing these longstanding issues and giving consumers confidence that their data is being accurately recorded.”

Telstra must not undergo a court-enforceable undertaking that requires an independent review of its IPND compliance, as well as self-reporting the accuracy of its IPND data quarterly to the ACMA.

“The ACMA expects all telcos to have and maintain effective processes to meet these critical obligations, especially as we head into the bushfire season in Australia,” O’Loughlin said.

A Telstra spokesperson provided Mumbrella with the following comment:

“We’ve been working to improve our systems and processes that deliver data to the IPND. This work uncovered some data inaccuracies as well as an issue that held up processing some customer requests for a copy of their IPND data. We reported these issues to ACMA and took steps to correct them.

“People’s privacy and safety is paramount and we’re sorry this happened.

“We accept the ACMA’s findings and have also executed an enforceable undertaking which includes appointing an independent reviewer to report on the status of our improvement work program.”


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