Optus Faces $1.5 Million Fine For Breaching Public Safety Rules

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has imposed a hefty $1.5 million fine on Optus, following the revelation of “large-scale breaches of public safety rules.” 

ACMA discovered that the telecom giant neglected its responsibility to upload critical information of nearly 200,000 customers to the Integrated Public Number Database (IPND), used by emergency services.

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The breaches occurred between January 2021 and September 2023, as Optus failed to fulfil its obligations through its outsourced supplier, Prvidr Pty Ltd. 

The IPND serves as a crucial resource for emergency services, providing essential location information and facilitating emergency alerts for police, ambulance, and fire brigade responses.

ACMA member Samantha Yorke highlighted serious concern about the consequences of hindering emergency services.

“When emergency services are hindered, there can be very serious consequences for the safety of Australians.” Ms Yorke said. 

She said that Optus cannot evade its obligations, even if part of the process is outsourced to a third party.

While there have been no reported direct harms resulting from this non-compliance, ACMA described the situation as “alarming”.

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“Optus cannot outsource its obligations, even if part of the process is being undertaken by a third party.”

This marks the latest in a series of actions by ACMA against telcos for IPND breaches over the past 18 months, with total financial penalties exceeding $2 million. 

Optus has accepted a court-enforceable undertaking from ACMA, requiring an independent review of its IPND compliance whenever it engages a third-party data provider. 

In response, an Optus spokesperson admitted lapses in audits and checks.

“We apologise for this and accept that we have not met community expectations,” the spokesperson said.

“Optus accepts the ACMA’s findings and has agreed to an Enforceable Undertaking to complete an independent review of the processes used to manage compliance with our IPND obligations for these partner brands and make any further improvements if required.”

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