Australian regulator fines Lycamobile for ‘dangerous’ failures

Australian regulator fines Lycamobile for ‘dangerous’ failures

Nerida O’Loughlin ACMA.jpg

The Australian telecoms regulator has fined the local branch of Lycamobile for what it calls “public safety failures”.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said it had found “prolonged and large-scale customer data failures, which could have put people in danger”, and fined the UK-based company A$600,000 (US$464,000).  

The regulator said: “Lycamobile did not provide accurate customer information to an industry database used by police, fire and ambulance services, and 4,207 instances where it failed to comply with ID check rules before signing up prepaid mobile customers”.

Capacity has contacted Chris Tooley, the London-based CEO of Lycamobile, for a comment, as well as the company’s public relations agency. The ACMA named Tooley in its direction under the Telecommunications Act 1997.

ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin (pictured) said the integrated public numbers database (IPND) is used by emergency services when responding to emergency calls from the public — 000 in Australia, the equivalent of 911 in North America, 112 in the EU and 999 in the UK.

Information from the IPND is also used for the emergency alert service, which was relied on extensively throughout the 2020 bushfires and Covid crises, said the ACMA.

“Telcos have a responsibility to help keep Australians safe during natural disasters or life-threatening circumstances. Lycamobile may have put people’s lives at risk by not passing accurate information on to the IPND,” said O’Loughlin.

The ACMA said that Lycamobile’s “failure to undertake proper customer ID checks when activating prepaid services is also a public safety issue, as police investigations into criminal activity are hampered when the owner of a mobile phone cannot be identified”.

It said it “required the company to conduct an independent audit of its systems and processes and to implement improvements, given the serious nature of Lycamobile’s non-compliance over a lengthy period”.

Tooley became CEO of the Lycamobile group in 2014, according to his LinkedIn entry.

In 2016 the company denied wrongdoing after French authorities raided its Paris office, arrested 19 executives and charged nine of them. According to BuzzFeed News, the charges are linked to suspicions of money laundering and tax fraud.

Lycamobile denied “all allegations of wrongdoing”, and said via its PR agency: “Lycamobile strongly denies all allegations of wrongdoing as reported by BuzzFeed media and subsequent news reports.”



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