Telstra forks over half a mil to ACMA

Telco slapped with $510,000 penalty for not meeting Customer Service Guarantee benchmarks

Telstra has paid a $510,000 penalty for failing to meet one of its nine Customer Service Guarantee (CSG) benchmarks in the 2012-13 financial year.

The telco failed to meet its target of connecting 90 per cent of new fixed line services in urban areas within five working days, the Australian Communications and Media Authority said in a statement.

The telco also fell short of meeting its target for connecting new landline services in remote areas. As a result the ACMA issued a formal warning to Telstra.

"The ACMA also took into account that 2012-13 was marked by extreme weather events which affected Telstra’s fixed line network, particularly in remote areas," the statement from the organisation said. The telco fell short of meeting the benchmark for remote areas by only eight connections. Telstra exceeded all other customer service benchmarks.

"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," the ACMA's chairperson, Chris Chapman, said in a statement.

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

"Connecting customers and fixing faults quickly and on time is a key part of our business," a Telstra spokesperson said. "We aspire to get this right every time. Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t live up to this goal and circumstances beyond our control impact our ability to do so.

"Last year, we faced unprecedented damage to our network from natural disasters. We fixed more than 1million 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."

"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," the spokesperson added. "We apologise to anyone who was affected by delays."

In addition Telstra copped a warning for breaching regulatory requirements relating eight payphone removals, though the ACMA said the breaches were "generally of a technical nature and noted the significant effort applied by Telstra in meeting the new requirements introduced on 1 January 2012, and that consultations did take place in each instance".

"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," the Telstra spokesperson said.

Teresa Corbin, CEO of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, said that ACCAN was "concerned at the number of people who experienced delays in getting a landline phone connected over the last financial year and we expect a better performance from Telstra from now on."

The ACCAN CEO added that it was also 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," Corbin said.

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