Telcos can now cut off people who harass Lifeline

Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images

Telecommunications companies have now been given the authority to suspend services to customers that repeatedly make unwanted calls to helplines such as Lifeline.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has registered a new version of its industry code this week that means people that make unwelcome calls will first be given a warning, then if the abuse continues telcos can suspend services.

Such unwanted calls to helplines can range from mere nuisance calls to more serious cases that are offensive or harassing.

ACMA chair Richard Bean said that the updated code acknowledges the time-critical nature of services like Lifeline and how unwanted calls impede their ability to help people in genuine distress.

“These calls can also affect the call-takers, who are often volunteers,” he said. “The tougher regime introduced by the code sends a strong message that unwelcome calls to helplines will not be tolerated.”

Lifeline Australia chief executive Pete Shmigel welcomed the change to better protect the more than 4,000 volunteers that man its suicide-prevention telephone lines.

“The new code will allow them to do more of what they do best — providing caring and non-judgemental support to Australians in crisis and sparing countless individuals, families and whole communities the profound heartache of losing someone to suicide.”

Using a carriage service to “menace, harass or cause offence” is a crime in Australia, but ACMA stated that most unwelcome call cases end up resolved with its code without resorting to police action.

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