Telstra has paid an infringement notice of more than $1.5 million after an investigation found the telco was not giving customers the opportunity to keep their number when changing providers.
An investigation by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) found that during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in late March 202 Telstra had suspended most of its local number porting operations.
As a result, more than 42,000 services could not be moved from Telstra to other telcos and vice versa.
As a result, new and existing customers were unable to immediately retain their old mobile number when changing away or to Telstra.
Telstra fully resumed porting operations in July 2020 and cleared the backlog of requests in October 2020.
“Australian consumers must have the freedom to change their telco provider to take up services that best suit their needs. This includes keeping your own phone number even if you take your business elsewhere,” ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said.
“Local number porting is important for consumers and supports a competitive telco sector.”
Ms O’Laughlin said the huge change brought about by COVID-19 was a factor in deciding how much Telstra should pay.
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,” Ms O’Laughlin said.
“However, it is clear Telstra, for a sustained period, did not have sufficient plans in place to comply with an important consumer safeguard that promotes competition in the telco market.
“Telstra was on notice that the ACMA took these consumer and competition measures seriously and would not be exercising regulatory forbearance for non-compliance. Telco business continuity processes must be robust, particularly after the challenges of the past year.”
Under Australian industry codes, telcos must relinquish a phone number if another telco requests the number to be ported to their service.
Telcos cannot refuse or delay porting the number even if the customer owes them money.
9News.com.au has contacted Telstra for comment.