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TPG fined $400,000 for denying access to emergency numbers

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Fined: TPG failed to provide access to emergency numbers, a court has found.

Fined: TPG failed to provide access to emergency numbers, a court has found. Photo: Rob Homer

Telco TPG has been fined $400,000 for failing to provide access to emergency numbers for customers who had not paid bills.

Federal Court Justice Mordecai Bromberg on Wednesday found TPG failed to give access to triple-0 and 112 on more than 190 occasions between March and September 2011.

He also found the company did not ensure that almost 6000 lines had access to emergency numbers over that period.

A software upgrade at TPG in 2011 barred all outgoing calls, including to emergency numbers, made from suspended and inactive accounts.

The error was discovered when a woman was barred from calling an ambulance for her sick husband from her home phone in September 2011.

The man suffered a heart attack and because of poor mobile phone reception, his wife could not relay important details about his condition.

He died in hospital days later.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) found 193 emergency calls from TPG had been barred, and 5979 suspended or inactive accounts did not have access to triple-0 during the period.

"All Australians need to be assured that any call they make to the triple-0 emergency call service will be connected," ACMA chairman Chris Chapman said.

Teresa Corbin, chief executive of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, also welcomed the court's decision.

"You can call triple-0 from a mobile without any credit, or a payphone without any coins, so you should absolutely be able to call triple-0 from your home phone," she said.

"People should feel safe and secure knowing that emergency services can be contacted at any time within their own home – failing this is a serious breach of the law and consumer trust."

Justice Bromberg said while the error may have been inadvertent, TPG had not taken reasonable steps to avoid it happening.

"In 2011 TPG did not have any policy or process in place to ensure that its controlled networks maintained triple-0 connectivity for all customers," he said.

TPG seemed to have a "lax approach" to important regulations, Justice Bromberg said.

"TPG's failure could easily have led to the death of a person who might otherwise have been saved."

AAP, Fairfax Media

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