Two local telecoms companies could be fined tens of thousands after a watchdog ruled that they failed to manage 999 services properly, potentially posing a "life-threatening risk" to the public.
The Jersey Competition Regulatory Authority yesterday issued a Final Decision that in early 2020, JT and Sure’s 999 services failed “multiple times.”
Across January to April 2020, the Authority said that failures in 999/112 services had affected all citizens in Jersey. On all but one occasion when Sure made a report, there was a failure to notify the Authority of the incidents, a breach of the operators’ licence conditions.
JT’s Call Handling Agent Infrastructure was cited as the cause of most of the six failures investigated, with two occasions of a complete outage where no one could phone 999 and four occasions where the States of Jersey Police had to field emergency calls.
Pictured: The Authority said the outages affected "all citizens in Jersey whether making calls from mobiles or a fixed line service."
The investigation concluded that JT “failed to manage and provide the public emergency call service with respect to their own customers” and “failed to notify the Authority of all the network issues that led to the failures.”
As a consequence, the Authority will be setting out regulatory contraventions and getting Operators to take action to minimise risk, as well as raising the standard of availability of 999 services.
Though the Authority says it will decide if there are any further penalties “at a later date", the law states that a maximum fine of up to 10% of a licensee’s turnover at the time of contravention can be applied.
Pictured: JT failed to inform the Authority of the outages on several occasions.
Tim Ringsdore, CEO of the Authority said: "Everyone who lives on, or visits Jersey relies on the 999/112 services being available if they need to get help in an emergency.
“These failures fell far short of the required standard, or what we expect of Jersey's licensed operators. Whilst a number of the problems were caused by JT's Call Handling Agent, Sure and other licensed operators also failed to meet their obligations in relation to the 999 service."
"This is an issue we are taking very seriously. JT and Sure have acknowledged the emergency call service they are bound to provide under the terms of their licences has fallen short of what is required.
“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.
“It is nevertheless evident that the failures which led to their occurrence presented potential life-threatening risk to the public during the pandemic. We are taking significant enforcement measures and clarifying the standards expected to ensure maximum availability of 999 services in the future.
"All operators have taken or will be taking steps to address the issues and are working with us to bring this investigation to a swift conclusion.
“We are pleased that there are currently no problems with Jersey's 999 service, and we have no reason to expect the problems to recur. If they do, we expect to take further swift and tough action. We call on all operators to work together to adopt a new Code of Practice and drive lasting improvements to ensure that Islanders and visitors are protected.”
Pictured: Police had to field emergency calls on four occasions.
Home Affairs Minister Constable Len Norman added: "These failures presented a significant threat to the integrity of our emergency services and the health and safety of Islanders. The swift response by the Jersey Competition Regulatory Authority and conduct of the investigation is welcomed and I am confident that the future stability of the 999 call network is now assured."
JT CEO Graeme Millar commented: “Firstly, I would like to apologise on behalf of JT that the emergency call-handling service provided for islanders hasn’t been up to standard this year. It is a service we have successfully delivered in Jersey for nearly a century, but at times around April this year, it fell below the level we expect.
“The JCRA’s investigation has been a useful process to establish exactly why that was, and to help to put it right both on the part of JT, and the other operators - something which has now been done.
“The work to fix our service has now been done by JT, in partnership with the JCRA, and will make sure that the island’s emergency call-handling is more resilient; that includes a system of making a specific test call every 30 minutes, and a new Code of Practice which will set out the exact requirements and expectations for all parties.
“I would like to echo the words of the Home Affairs Minister, and take this opportunity to reassure islanders that the necessary steps have all been taken to make sure the 999 service meets the standards they rightly have come to expect.”
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