Forcing around 14,000 customers to switch onto its NBN plan or face disconnection has seen Optus handed penalties worth $1.5 million by the Federal Court.
According to the ACCC, Optus told thousands of customers between March 2015 and October 2017 that their internet service would be disconnected if they did not move to the national broadband network (NBN). However the telco could not force this transition on customers under the terms of its contract.
Optus was also found to have told customers they had to sign up to its own NBN services, when in fact they could have chosen any provider.
“Optus pressured customers by misrepresenting the time period in which services could be disconnected,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
“Businesses should not make false representations which distort customers’ decision making. This is particularly important when many Australians are moving to the NBN for the first time.
“It is illegal for businesses to mislead their customers and create a false impression through their communications. Today’s penalty serves as a warning to all businesses that such behaviour will be met with ACCC action.”
Optus was found to have benefited by around $750,000 as a result of its conduct. However, Optus has already paid out $833,000 in compensation to affected customers, in addition to the $1.5 million penalties handed down by the court.
An Optus spokesperson admitted the company had made a mistake and had taken actions to reimburse affected customers.
“In response to industry changes driven by the NBN, Optus is transforming its fixed business from being an infrastructure provider to a services reseller. In late 2016, we made the decision to proactively migrate customers off Optus’ cable network to the NBN as soon as an area becomes serviceable,” the spokesperson said.
“Optus aims for a seamless experience for customers transitioning to NBN. However, during this process, we provided some customers with insufficient notice of their options to migrate and some customers were disconnected before they migrated to the NBN.”
The spokesperson added: “Optus has acknowledged this was wrong and should not have occurred. [We have] written to affected customers apologising for this error and offering compensation to customers that had been disconnected without sufficient notice. Optus has also established a revised set of migration processes for its cable customers that we believe will deliver customers the migration experience they expect.”
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.