TPG has been fined $400,000 for failing to connect 193 triple-zero calls made by its customers, due to a software glitch that cut off connectivity to account holders who had not paid their bill.
The Federal Court ruled today the failure was in breach of Australian telecommunications laws, which require that telcos give customers and other end users access to the triple zero emergency phone service in all circumstances.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority commenced legal proceedings against TPG following a complaint from a customer who couldn’t reach the emergency phone service when requiring emergency medical attention.
TPG admitted to ACMA 5979 home telephone customers went without access to triple zero services between 15 March 2011 and 21 September 2011 as a result of the flaw. It said 193 customers attempted to make an emergency call.
But it argued to the court the laws should not apply to the 193 calls because it was not supplying standard telephone services to the customers at the time they were made.
Despite this, Justice Mordecai Bromberg ruled the telco’s oversight “could easily have led to the death of a person who might otherwise have been saved” and ordered it pay $400,000.
Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) CEO Teresa Corbin called the case “an inexcusable failure by TPG”.
“You can call 000 from a mobile without any credit, or a payphone without any coins, so you should absolutely be able to call 000 from your home phone. People should feel safe and secure knowing that emergency services can be contacted at any time within their own home,” she said.
TPG is the first telco to have been pursued by ACMA for a breach of the Telecommunications (Emergency Call Service) Determination 2009.
“This decision is a reminder for all providers that the obligation to give triple zero access is of paramount importance,’ ACMA chairman Chris Chapman said in a statement.