Telstra Retail had better ADSL tools than Wholesale: ACCC

Between May 2012 and October 2014, up to 282 customers may have been told that they could not receive an ADSL service from an ISP, only to find that Telstra Retail said they could.

An Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) report on Telstra's compliance during the 2013-14 fiscal year with the terms of its structural separation undertaking (SSU) has found Australia's dominant telco to be "generally compliant", but a number of issues remain.

One of the issues identified by the ACCC in its report (PDF) was the ability for Telstra Retail to consider a copper line with excessive transmission loss serviceable for ADSL, whereas Telstra Wholesale would diagnose the line as incapable.

Telstra determined that the difference was a result of Telstra Retail's system looking at alternative copper paths, whereas Wholesale's system did not.

"Telstra identified that this led to different outcomes for the ordering and provisioning of some wholesale ADSL services when compared to Telstra's Retail Business Unit," the ACCC said. "Telstra has advised that the breach is likely to have affected 282 wholesale customer end users from May 2012 to October 2014."

As part of the transition to the National Broadband Network (NBN), Telstra agreed to structurally separate its wholesale fixed-line network business from its retail businesses, including BigPond.

Under the terms of the SSU, Telstra must ensure equivalent supply to both Telstra Retail and Wholesale, and use the same order management process for all ADSL customers.

To remedy the breach, the ACCC said Telstra had removed the ability for Telstra Retail queries to consider alternative copper paths, and offered free transfer of affected end users and compensation for affected wholesale customers.

In last year's report, the ACCC found that Telstra's wholesale arm created two new ADSL products for its retail arm, but failed to offer similar products to its retail competitors.

The report also found a number of IT systems that were not properly partitioned or ring-fenced to avoid wholesale customer information being disclosed to Telstra Retail.

"During 2013-14, Telstra employees from Retail Business Units could continue to access up to 30 shared IT systems, which disclosed wholesale customer Protected Information in breach of the SSU," the report said.

"The majority of breaches reported in 2013-14 involve cases where Protected Information has been disclosed to Retail Business Unit staff inadvertently or as a result of Telstra not yet fully completing its IT systems remediation."

Written in February this year, the report said Telstra would have the majority of its IT systems remediated by March.

"The ACCC considers that, when fully completed, Telstra's IT system remediation program, as well as Telstra's ongoing commitment to ensuring compliance with the SSU, will be capable of preventing the types of breaches that are outlined in this report from recurring," the ACCC said.

In response, Telstra said the report confirmed its commitment to complying with the SSU.

"The ACCC has reported on some gaps in our systems where access to wholesale customers' information could be better protected. We proactively identified these gaps ourselves, and we are investing significantly in our systems to close them," the company said.

"There is no evidence to suggest Telstra staff have used wholesale customer information to gain an unfair commercial advantage."