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AUS: ACA announces investigation

AUS: ACA announces investigation following Quarterly Report

The Australian Communications Authority (ACA) today released its Telecommunications Performance Monitoring Bulletin for the June 1999 quarter. The Bulletin reports on carrier performance in the fixed and mobile phone networks.

The most significant performance result in relation to the fixed network, is the continued degradation of service responsiveness by Telstra to customers seeking new connections in urban and major rural areas without infrastructure. Telstra reported that nationally only 63 per cent of new services requested in urban areas without infrastructure were connected within the Customer Service Guarantee (CSG) Standard timeframe of one month. This is a decline of ten percentage points when compared to the performance achieved in the corresponding 1998 quarter.

Mr Tony Shaw, ACA Chairman said "I am concerned with Telstra's continuing poor performance in the provision of new services, particularly in areas without ready access to infrastructure. The ACA has decided to use its powers under the Telecommunications Act 1997 to investigate Telstra's performance in the provision of services against the CSG Standard." Details of the ACA investigation are in the enclosed backgrounder.

National performance figures for fault restoration against CSG timeframes were relatively steady for the period when compared to the same quarter in 1998.

Telstra's performance in answering calls to its Directory Assistance Service within ten seconds improved considerably by 13 percentage points over the quarter. This is the best result ever reported by Telstra.

Telstra's performance in the provision of payphone services continued to worsen. Only 94 per cent of payphones were considered as available while payphone serviceability dropped a further three percentage points to 82 per cent, the poorest performances on record for both indicators. Nationally the average time to clear a payphone fault increased by six hours, to 42 hours. The ACA has commissioned research into Telstra's payphone service performance and the results will be released in mid October.

C&W Optus reported a ten per cent increase in complaints over the quarter, a consequence of its growing customer base, resulting in an increase in the number of claims made by its customers for breaches of the CSG Standard.

Backgrounder: Investigation into Telstra's compliance with the CSG Standard

As shown below the Telecommunications Performance Monitoring Bulletin - June 1999 Quarter - indicates that Telstra performance against the following Customer Service Guarantee (CSG) standards is poor and has deteriorated over time.

Provision of new services against the CSG Standard - urban areas (population greater than 10,000 people) without infrastructure (within one month of customer request)

National June 98 - 73% June 99 - 63% (unadjusted)

Provision of new services against the CSG Standard - major rural areas (population between 2,500 and 10,000 people) without infrastructure (within one month of customer request)

National June 98 - 62% June 99 - 56% (unadjusted)

What the ACA will be investigating

As a result the ACA has decided to investigate the following matters related to Telstra's compliance with the CSG Standard.

The extent of Telstra's non-compliance with the CSG Standard. Whether the extent of non-compliance with the CSG Standard is indicative of failure of a system, process or practice of a carriage service provider. Whether the contravention of the CSG Standard is causing widespread consumer detriment. In assessing the impact of the contravention on consumers, the ACA will examine the long term effects, if any, of the contravention. Whether the carriage service provider has already taken remedial action to address the non-compliance with the standard and the ACA considers that the contravention is not likely to recur or whether the interests of consumers are best met in giving a Direction in response to the contravention of the standard.

The ACA will also consider whether Telstra has complied with its Universal Service Obligation as set out in the Universal Service Plan.

Investigation Process

The investigation will be undertaken in accordance with the provisions of Part 26 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 and may lead to a Direction being issued to Telstra under s118 of the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999.

Telstra's telephone service must improve

The Minister for Communications, Senator Richard Alston, today welcomed the Australian Communications Authority decision to formally investigate Telstra's quality of service following another inadequate performance by the carrier in the June quarter.

'The ACA investigation is the first step under new regulatory arrangements put in place by the Government earlier this year to better protect consumers' interests in telecommunications. The ACA now has the power to issue remedial directions to telephone companies for failing to satisfactorily meet minimum standards of service - and the companies face fines of up to $10 million for failure to comply with such directions,' Senator Alston said.

'Telstra's June quarter performance is fundamentally unsatisfactory in key areas.

'The Government has noted Telstra's statements this year of a renewed focus on customer service. The ACA report reveals, however, that Telstra is yet to fully live up to its commitments. The ACA has the Government's full support in conducting its investigation.'

The ACA's June quarterly report on telecommunications performance shows Telstra's performance remained extremely low in some areas, and that performance was getting worse. The ACA measures carriers' performance against the Government's Customer Service Guarantee (CSG) standard.

Telstra supplied new services to customers, without available infrastructure, in major rural areas of the Northern Territory within the CSG timeframe only 42% of the time, and in Tasmania only 47% of the time. Telstra's national performance in providing new telephone connections to customers in major rural areas remained at unsatisfactory low levels.

Telstra's performance in supplying new telephone connections in areas without available infrastructure also declined nationally by 11 percentage points in urban areas and 4 percentage points in major rural areas even after service problems due to bad weather difficulties, such as those that occurred in Western Australia, had been excluded.

Fault repair times also remained poor in remote areas with only 65 percent of faults fixed within the CSG timeframe.

The ACA report does show that Telstra has performed well in some instances. It has consistently performed well in supplying new service connections in minor rural and remote areas, and to sites where services were "in-place". In these circumstances Telstra was able to meet the CSG standard in over 90% of cases. Telstra was also able to improve its performance in answering calls to its Directory Assistance Service within 10 seconds by 13 percentage points.

'The ACA now has the teeth to deal with identified problem areas and the Government is sure that the Authority will have no hesitation in using its powers if investigation finds their use is warranted,' Senator Alston said.

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