ACMA finds Telstra failed to help customers with life-threatening medical conditions

The ACMA has said it is 'deeply concerned' about Telstra's non-compliance with its priority assistance obligations, with two customers passing away in 2017 after being unable to use their landline service.

Telstra has been directed to commission an independent audit of its priority assistance obligations compliance by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) after the federal government agency found the telco to be in breach of assisting customers with life-threatening medical conditions.

"The remedial direction results from an investigation into Telstra following two incidents in 2017 where customers with serious, chronic health conditions were unable to use their Telstra landline service," the ACMA said on Monday morning.

"Neither customer was registered for priority assistance, but both made plain their serious health conditions and their need for a working telephone service.

"In both cases, the customers passed away."

According to the ACMA, in both of these cases Telstra failed to provide priority assistance information eight times when customers had enquired, and to put into practice emergency medical request procedures nine times.

"The ACMA is deeply concerned with Telstra's failure to comply with its priority assistance obligations," ACMA Acting Chair Creina Chapman said.

'We'll be taking a very close look at the results of the independent audit. If we still have concerns with Telstra's priority assistance services, we'll step in and ensure they're addressed."

Telstra has since commissioned the audit, which will examine the scripts and training being given to Telstra staff members and will look into past complaints on the issue.

Under its priority assistance obligations, Telstra is required to provide information to customers who enquire about the service; follow procedures to provide a working phone service to customers not registered for priority assistance but "have an urgent need" due to a life-threatening condition; and ensure the phone services of registered priority assistance customers are connected, and in the event of an outage given priority for repairs or provided with interim services.

Telstra was last month also forced to provide AU$9.3 million in refunds and pay AU$10 million in penalties after misleading customers on its premium direct billing (PDB) services; and last year refund more than 40,000 NBN customers and refund AFL subscribers.

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