ACMA targets Telstra over privacy breach

Telstra has been issued with a direction from the ACMA after privacy breaches last year.

ACMA has directed Telstra to comply with a privacy clause in the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code (TCP) following the telco’s breach of the code for over eight months last year.

Telstra was found to be in breach of the code by ACMA and also in breach of the Privacy Act when customers' personal information in its database was made publicly available from 29 March, 2011 to 9 December, 2011.

Customer names and phone numbers were made public and in some cases, customers’ dates of birth, drivers' licence numbers and credit card details were also made available. Up to 734,000 customers were affected.

It is the first direction given by ACMA under the revised code since it was registered 1 September this year.

The TCP code aims to protect customers from unexpected charges, sort out confusing mobile plans and improve the handling of customer complaints. It applies to all telecommunications providers, including ISPs and landline and mobile carriers.

New powers given to ACMA include being able to force companies to ensure pricing information is clear on advertising; improve information on plans; improve complaint handling; and increase transparency around billing and expenditure.

“Put simply, if a provider breaches the code, you can expect us to direct it to comply,” Chris Chapman, ACMA chairman, said in a statement.

“Given Telstra has proactively taken steps to remedy its processes with a view to preventing such an incident from happening again, a direction with respect to the specific code provision is the appropriate measure.”

If Telstra fails to comply with the privacy clause in the TCP code, ACMA could talk the telco to court and seek a pecuniary penalty.

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