Telstra has been ordered to undergo an independent audit on its priority assistance obligations, following two incidents from last year that resulted in deaths.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority found that the telco failed to comply with its priority assistance obligations for customers with life-threatening medical conditions.
An ACMA investigation revealed that two customers with serious, chronic health conditions who died in 2017 had been unable to use their Telstra landline service. They were not registered for priority assistance despite the telco being aware of their conditions.
“Following these events, our initial focus is to address the underlying issue, namely the robustness of the system,” ACMA acting chair Creina Chapman said.
“While it is not clear that any action by Telstra would have changed these tragic outcomes, priority assistance is critical to ensure that customers with life-threatening conditions are identified and provided with swift assistance and fault rectification.”
ACMA also revealed that Telstra did not provide information about priority assistance to eight customers who enquired about the service, and also failed to implement the emergency medical request procedures specified in its priority assistance policy on nine occasions during enquiries made about the services.
The authority then ordered Telstra to commission the audit on its training and scripts provided to Telstra staff, as well as past customer complaints about priority assistance. The audit report is due Friday this week.
Telstra chief financial officer Robyn Denholm issued an apology in behalf of the telco in the company's blog.
"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," Denholm said.
"We are also sorry for adding to the families’ stress at what would have been a difficult and traumatic time."
She added Telstra is "cooperating fully" with the independent auditor to ensure all the information required is provided so they can produce a comprehensive report to the ACMA.
“The ACMA is deeply concerned with Telstra’s failure to comply with its priority assistance obligations,” Chapman added.
“We’ll be taking a very close look at the results of the independent audit. If we still have concerns with Telstra’s priority assistance services we’ll step in and ensure they’re addressed.”