Telstra Corp., Australia's largest telecommunications company, announced on June 20, 2018, that it will ax 8,000 jobs — one in four employees — over three years in a bid to save 1 billion Australian dollars ($740 million). (RICK RYCROFT / AP)

SYDNEY Telstra, Australia's largest telecom provider, was found having taken credit management action against 70 customers, who were on a financial hardship arrangement with the telco.

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In a press release on Thursday, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said that it has directed Telstra to comply with relevant rules.

Telstra must continue to address these longstanding issues as a matter of urgency

Any further non-compliance could lead to significant consequences for Telstra, with penalties of up to 250,000 Australian dollars (about 169,000 U.S. dollars), the authority warned.

Under Australia's telecommunications code, telcos must suspend credit management action, which can include service suspensions, disconnections or debt collection, while a financial hardship arrangement is being discussed or is in place.

However, an ACMA investigation found that 70 customers were impacted by Telstra between August 2019 and April 2022.

Among them, 22 had their services restricted, four had services suspended, five were disconnected and two were referred to outside collection agencies. Other actions included letters or calls requesting payment.

"With the pressures caused by rising costs of living and the COVID-19 pandemic, it's more important than ever for telcos to support their customers, particularly those in difficult circumstances," said Acting ACMA Chair Creina Chapman.

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According to the press release, the errors occurred due to two Telstra legacy IT systems that prevented or delayed a status update of the customers, and the issues were resolved for 61 of the affected customers within 24 hours.

"Telstra must continue to address these longstanding issues as a matter of urgency so that its systems can deliver on customer safeguards," Chapman added.