Telecoms firms fined combined £810,000 following service outages

TWO telecoms firms have been fined a combined £810,000 after service failures left Islanders unable to call 999 on six occasions last year.

JT file pic taken in 2014. Picture: JON GUEGAN (30578673)
JT file pic taken in 2014. Picture: JON GUEGAN (30578673)

The Jersey Competition Regulatory Authority have issued JT with a £675,000 fine and Sure a penalty of £135,000 for ‘serious breaches’ of their licence obligations. The JCRA said there were several repeated failures between January and April 2020.

The cause of most of the disruption was, according to the regulator, JT’s call-handling agent infrastructure. On two occasions there were complete outages where no one could call 999, and on the other four occasions the States police had to step in and field emergency calls.

Tim Ringsdore, chief executive of the authority, said: ‘We take these failures very seriously indeed, which is why the board of the authority has decided to issue significant fines. These fines are appropriate given the seriousness of the failures, despite the operators having knowledge of the problem. I am confident that our investigations have been thorough and robust. I would like to thank the operators for their co-operation, the Home Affairs Minister and the Economic Development Minister for their support and the emergency services for their contribution.’

The fines are to be paid to the Treasury Department, with the JCRA proposing that the funds are ring-fenced for the Justice and Home Affairs Department to be reinvested into the Island’s emergency-call system.

Home Affairs Minister Len Norman said: ‘Everyone who lives in, or visits, Jersey relies on the 999 and 112 services being available if they need to get help in an emergency. These failures fell far short of the required standard that we expect. Fortunately no loss of life is known to have resulted as a consequence of any of the six incidents that were the subject of this investigation.

‘I would like to congratulate the authority for its swift response to this issue and its diligence in carrying out a root-and-branch investigation of the breaches. I cannot stress enough the seriousness of the failures and the possible consequences that were, thankfully, avoided.’

Sure store. Picture taken in 2018. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30578723)

Under the terms of the licence agreement for both companies, the 999 or 112 emergency-call services are required to be provided ‘at all times’.

JT chief executive Graeme Millar said: ‘On behalf of JT, I would like to reaffirm my apology for our part in the problems in the early part of 2020 which led to this fine. JT has played a key role in providing those services on behalf of the Island for more than a century, and we take our responsibilities in this area very seriously indeed.

‘JT has worked hand-in-hand with the authority, and the Justice and Home Affairs Department, throughout this process. I would like to reassure Islanders that the relevant problems have now been identified and resolved, and the circumstances which led to last year’s incidents have not been repeated.

‘We accept the authority’s decision on this matter and will now be focused on making sure these important services are delivered in the best possible way.’

And Graham Hughes, chief executive of Sure Jersey, added: ‘We recognise the seriousness of these failures and are sorry that there was an issue with Sure’s handover process for emergency calls. As a result of this incident we have reviewed our procedures and made immediate changes to ensure the process is smooth and reliable. Having initially raised this issue with the JCRA we are pleased to have co-operated with them to bring this matter to its conclusion.’

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