Telcos could face fines of up to nearly $1 million for failing to meet service requirements under proposed new penalties outlined by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy yesterday.
The highest penalty under the proposed changes detailed in a consultation paper (PDF) released by the minister would be moved from $6600 to a maximum of $990,000 for failing to meet payphone performance benchmarks. This would only apply to Telstra in its role as the universal service provider of payphone services in Australia.
A $990,000 fine will also apply to telcos with over 100,000 customers which fail to comply with the government's customer service guarantee. This guarantee is detailed in The Telecommunications (Customer Service Guarantee — Retail Performance Benchmarks) Instrument Act (No.1) 2011 and is part of the reforms made under the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Act 2010. Under the legislation, telcos can already face fines of up to $2 million for slow connection or repair times.
Other penalties that telcos may face under the proposals include $33,000 fines for mobile operators who fail to implement a service that allows customers to block premium SMS and MMS services and a $33,000 fine for the failure to comply with a "do not bill" order from the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
In a statement, Conroy said that the benchmarks would ensure basic standards were maintained in the telecommunications industry.
"The infringement notice regime is an important new tool the government has recently provided the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to enable it to better enforce compliance by telecommunications companies with regulatory requirements," he said.
"Infringement notices will be particularly useful for ensuring compliance with the regulatory requirements that set benchmarks for meeting service standards relating to the provision of basic telephone services and public payphones."
Submissions on the consultation paper are open until 19 September 2011.