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Telstra's CRM system breached competition undertaking: ACCC

Overall, SSU compliance is improving

IT integration isn't easy. Just ask Australia's dominant carrier Telstra, whose customer information system accidentally provided a ladder over the “Chinese walls” supposed to keep wholesale information out of the hands of its retail business.

That information emerged in the regular Structural Separation Undertaking (SSU) report the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) prepares for parliament.

The ACCC's statement says Telstra's compliance with the SSU improved in the 2014-2015 reporting period, and “and Telstra has acted reasonably to redress breaches as they arise”.

Problems still remain, however, including leaking confidential information about wholesale arrangements to Telstra Retail business units; failure to maintain separation between wholesale, retail, and network services operations; meeting its reporting requirements; and blocking the processing of service orders in migration to the NBN.

The full compliance report, here, details what are mostly minor breaches.

The system-side issue, however, looks more serious because “protected information” could have been available to anybody using the company-wide CRM suite.

Information being included in a free text notes field may contain Protected Information which confirms the existence of a wholesale product on the relevant line or an association with a wholesale line.

The CRM system is used by both wholesale and retail staff, so, as the ACCC drily notes, “there is a risk that disclosure of this information has occurred”.

Similar issues were identified in other IT systems, such as trouble ticketing, that were accessible to both wholesale and retail staff.

While the ACCC considered most of the breaches to be minor, the report won't help industry fears about the incumbent's privileged position as the biggest wholesale broadband supplier and infrastructure operator, and its contracts to sell infrastructure to (and repair that infrastructure) Australia's national broadband network.

The carrier's many contracts to fix twisted pair copper and HFC infrastructure for the NBN have been met with concern by groups like the Competitive Carrier's Coalition, who believe Telstra will get the jump on other broadband retailers because it knows when areas are ready-for-service on the NBN. ®

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