The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) today announced it found that we have breached our Priority Assistance obligations.

The Priority Assistance service is a free higher priority connection and fault restoration service for customers who have, or live with someone who has, a diagnosed life-threatening medical condition, and whose life may be at risk if they don’t have access to a working telephone service.

Telstra provides services to millions of customers, including around 146,000 who are registered for a Priority Assistance service. We visit the homes of more than 13,000 customers each day to assist with connections and faults and we work hard to ensure these are successful and meet the appropriate standards for our customers.

We are the only Australian provider required to offer this kind of prioritised connection and fault restoration service and we take this obligation very seriously.

The ACMA commenced its investigation after they became aware of two cases where Telstra customers with life-threatening medical conditions passed away while their fixed-line service wasn’t working.

We acknowledge failures in our processes and systems meant these customers were not provided with the level of service that they required, and we apologise sincerely to the families concerned. We are also sorry for adding to the families’ stress at what would have been a difficult and traumatic time.

The ACMA has directed Telstra to appoint an independent person to review our Priority Assistance processes and historical complaints, and to ensure we have systems, processes and practices in place to support compliance.

We are cooperating fully with the independent auditor to ensure they have all the information required to provide a comprehensive report to the ACMA.

These cases make it clear that we need to do better. We have implemented a number of changes to our management of Priority Assistance customers including offering a free professional installation of modems for Priority Assist nbn customers; rolling out to new training to our employees; and creating a dedicated nbn connection management team with the sole responsibility of managing PA customers.

It is critically important that our customers can rely on us to manage this vital service and we are ensuring we have the processes, systems and training in place to meet our obligations and, more importantly, the expectations of our customers.