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SpinTel breaches privacy of 400 customers

The MVNO, which resells Optus and Telstra broadband and mobile services, has had an enforceable undertaking accepted by the ACMA for listing the details of 426 silent customers.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has directed telecommunications provider SpinTel to comply with the IPND Industry Code after breaching the privacy of more than 400 customers.

SpinTel, a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that resells Optus' 4G and 3G networks for mobile services, and provides home phone and broadband connectivity across the Telstra and Optus exchanges, was found to have published 426 silent line customers' phone numbers, names, and addresses in three Australian public phone directories between January 9, 2014, and February 3, 2015.

SpinTel had inadvertently removed the silent classification, in breach of clause 5.12 of the Integrated Public Number Database (IPND) Industry Code, subsection 101(1) of the Telecommunications Act 1997, and clause 4.6.3 of the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code.

One customer whose number was published in a public directory had complained to the ACMA, which subsequently opened an investigation into the matter. SpinTel then admitted to the ACMA that it had incorrectly classified the unlisted phone services to the IPND manager during January 2014 to February 2015.

The telco thereafter notified the customers of its privacy breach, and offered new phone numbers free of charge to those affected.

"This is a clear reminder to industry that all telcos must honour a customer's request for a silent number, particularly as these requests often arise from concerns over personal safety," said ACMA deputy chairman Richard Bean.

The ACMA has directed SpinTel to comply with the IPND Code's accuracy clause, under which telcos must ensure that their customer data is accurate, complete, and up to date. SpinTel's enforceable undertaking was also accepted by the ACMA, wherein the telco has said it will update its data; contact an independent auditor on privacy processes; provide education and training to its staff members on data privacy; and report back to the ACMA.

Should SpinTel contravene its enforceable undertaking, it will be subject to Federal Court action.

Last month, the ACMA directed six telcos to comply with the TCP Code after failing to lodge a statement of code compliance for the last two years.

The six telcos directed to comply were AussieSim, Btel Communications, Datawave Internet, Golden IT, Harbour of Technology (Hotnet), and MVoice.

"The ACMA will continue to ensure industry participants work within industry 'accountability measures', so the ACMA will take action (such as issuing directions) if necessary," said ACMA chairman Chris Chapman.

In September, the ACMA had also formally warned more than 20 telcos over failing to lodge a statement of code compliance.

The formal warnings [PDF], issued under subsection 122(2) of the Telecommunications Act 1997, were sent out to 25 telcos, including Amnet, Tele-Talk, Novatel, Infiniti, Blue Telecom, Wire Networks, Supercheap Telco, Telco4u, ReddeNet, and Call Central Communications.

Since coming into effect, 178 formal warnings, 35 directions to comply, and one infringement notice have been sent out by the ACMA under the TCP Code.

MVNOs are growing in popularity in Australia, with market research company Kantar's latest report revealing that they accounted for 9.7 percent of total mobile market share, a rise of 2 percentage points year on year.

MVNOs accounted for 9 percent of the post-paid market as of September 30, gaining 1.5 percentage points year on year, while they also rose by 0.2 percentage points in the prepaid sector, to account for 7.2 percent of prepaid market share.

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