Telstra has paid a $1.5 million penalty for failing to allow consumers to keep existing local phone numbers when changing telephone companies.
From March to July 2020, Telstra suspended the majority of its local number porting operations, saying the COVID-19 pandemic impacted offshore operations.
More than 42,000 services could not be moved from Telstra to other telcos—or vice versa.
The infringement notice, related to “local number porting,” is the biggest issue raised by the Australian Communications and Media Authority to date.
The Australian Communications and Media Authorities (ACMA) found Telstra unilaterally cancelled transfer requests scheduled to occur and stopped accepted new requests.
The move happened without warning to other telcos who were unable to help new and existing customers transfer their service while keeping their current phone number.
Telstra resumed porting in July and did not clear the backlog of requests until October.
ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said home, and business users had been impacted by Telstra’s action.
“We appreciate Telstra had difficulties due to COVID-19, and we took this into account in our enforcement actions, including the size of the financial penalty,” she said.
“However, it is clear Telstra did not have sufficient plans in place to continue to comply for a length of time with an important consumer safeguard that promotes competition in the telco market.”
This latest fine for Telstra, currently valued at over $40 billion, comes after a penalty of $50 million for breaching consumer laws in five stores in the Northern Territory last year.
Telstra could face further penalties if it fails to comply with the Local Number Portability Industry Code, where each penalty would cost the company a $250,000 fine.
The previous record fine reached over $1 million for breach of spam laws by grocery giant Woolworths.
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