Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Amazing impudence: Telstra fined for phoning 'do not call' list

TELSTRA has been fined more than $100,000 by the Federal Government after it admitted making unsolicited phone calls to numbers on the 'Do Not Call Register'.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) received numerous complaints after the telco made calls to people on the register in 2008.

According to ACMA, an investigation found "inadequate compliance systems, procedures and supervision had contributed to calls being made to numbers on the Register where the consumers were not existing Telstra customers". Telstra admitted to the breaches and was fined $101,200.

"The ACMA expects large businesses like Telstra to be leading the way and setting an example when it comes to compliance with the Do Not Call Register – not falling behind," ACMA chairman Chris Chapman said in a statement. "The market leaders in the telco industry should consider themselves soundly on notice – size and complexity are no excuse for non-compliant practice."

Mr Chapman said Telstra has since paid the fine. "Telstra has paid the infringement notice, acknowledged that there is work to do, and is now setting about fixing these issues," Mr Chapman said.

The Do Not Call Register was launched in 2007 with 3.5 million phone numbers currently listed. ACMA said it had received 12057 complaints between May 2008 and May 2009, a drop from 2007 figures.

A Telstra spokesman apoligised for the company's behaviour. "Obviously, we are sorry that it happened, it shouldn't have happened and we have been working cooperatively with ACMA to put in a range of measures to stop it happening again," the spokesman said. "It was a combination of human error and a breakdown of our strict processes." [Strict processes?? That's a laugh!]


Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Gorilla Telco again

Telstra admits denying access

TELSTRA could face a fine of up to $300 million after admitting to the Federal Court it was guilty of misleading and deceptive conduct in denying competitors access to its copper network.

It is understood Telstra made the startling admission in a defence filing lodged with the Federal Court on July 31. In it, the telco admitted it had failed to comply with its access obligations as outlined under the Telecommunications Act 1997, thereby contravening a condition of its carrier licence.

The admission relates to a court case brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in March, which alleges Telstra violated its obligations to users of its unconditioned local loop services and line-sharing services.

Under standard obligations, Telstra is legally required to allow access to its telephone exchanges so competitors can install equipment to provide new voice and broadband offerings for customers.

The ACCC has said Telstra refused access at seven of its metropolitan exchanges by claiming they were full and there was no capacity left for rivals to install new equipment.

The watchdog also alleged Telstra engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct by publishing lists of capped exchanges on the Telstra wholesale website.

In the March filing, the ACCC said it would seek declarations, pecuniary penalties and injunctions against the telco.

The Telecommunications Act says a contravention can carry a penalty of up to $10m per breach. Thirty alleged breaches have been filed, but it is unclear how many of these Telstra has admitted guilt to.

The Federal Court in Melbourne yesterday held a directions hearing to gather additional evidence from access seekers before an appropriate penalty could be imposed by the court.

The next directions hearing has been set for October 2.

Telstra's humbling admission to the ACCC's allegations is in stark contrast to the combative stance the telco adopted under the tutelage of former chief executive Sol Trujillo.

But with Mr Trujillo out of the picture, new chief executive David Thodey has moved to clear its legal deck of any embarrassing anti-competitive misdemeanors.

Mr Thodey's conciliatory approach has helped mend bridges with the government and comes as the telco is preparing to re-engage the government with its new national broadband network plans.