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Telstra cops AU$510K fine for slow landline activations

The ACMA proves to be a hard marker, with Telstra copping an AU$510,000 fine for missing two of nine benchmarks by approximately 1 percent each.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has dished out an AU$510,000 fine to Telstra for failing to meet two of its benchmarks for the timely connection of fixed-line services in urban and remote areas.

The fines relate to Telstra's performance against the Customer Service Guarantee (CSG) benchmarks for the 2012-13 financial year.

In urban areas, Telstra is required to have a new connection in place within two working days after a request in a premises where there has previously been a connected service, within five working days for a new premises with the landline already installed, and within 20 working days for a premises with no infrastructure.

Telstra was able to meet this target 88.6 percent of the time, but the benchmark was 90 percent.

For remote areas, the new connection for an existing landline is also two working days, while new landlines with new infrastructure is within 15 working days, and with no infrastructure is 20 working days.

Telstra met this target 89 percent of the time, again with a 90 percent benchmark.

For the failure, Telstra copped an AU$510,000 fine, representing 300 penalty units. The ACMA indicated that Telstra had paid the fine yesterday. The fine will go back to federal government revenue.

In a statement, a Telstra spokesperson said that circumstances beyond its control had impacted its ability to meet the benchmarks.

"Last year, we faced unprecedented damage to our network from natural disasters. We fixed more than 1 million faults for our customers and a number of events, such as the Queensland floods, Tasmanian fires, and Warrnambool Exchange fire, placed great strain on our network and resources across the country," the spokesperson said.

"We accept the ACMA finding that although we met all the regulated CSG benchmarks for the faults we fixed last year, we narrowly missed the target for new connections in urban areas and remote areas."

Telstra apologised for those affected by the delays.

The ACMA also issued Telstra with a formal warning for breaching regulatory requirements around the length of the consultation period for the removal of eight payphones in the financial year.

The Telstra spokesperson said that Telstra had accepted the ACMA's findings.

"While we believe that there has been no customer detriment, we take our regulatory obligations seriously and have committed to take a number of other steps to strengthen compliance with the payphone determinations," he said.

ACCC chairman Chris Chapman said Telstra has already worked to improve its efforts in meeting the customer service guarantee.

"I welcome Telstra's improvements already implemented and its commitments to the ACMA to further improve its internal governance in these areas of operations, as well as its operational processes and systems," Chapman said in a statement.

"Telstra has also committed to more regularly engage with the ACMA about its service improvements and performance."

Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) CEO Teresa Corbin said consumers should remember that compensation is available for customers when Telstra does not meet its own benchmarks.

"We are concerned that Telstra may not be informing consumers that they are entitled to compensation payments when there are delays in connections and repairs. ACCAN has been contacted by consumers who only heard about their right to compensation payments by chance through media reports," she said in a statement.

"In at least one case, an older consumer only received compensation for a delayed connection after speaking with ACCAN and then asking Telstra about it. This is not good enough — most consumers are not aware of their entitlement to compensation, and Telstra should be making people fully aware of their rights."

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