Around 14,000 Optus HFC customers were told between October 2015 and March 2017 that is they didn’t switch to NBN, they would be disconnected – some within 30 days. The catch is, Optus couldn’t force this, under the terms of its contract.
Now the telco is copping a $1.5 million fine, handed down from the Federal Court.
ACCC said in a statement this morning that Optus also made misleading representations to customers that they had to sign up to Optus’ NBN services, when they could have chosen any internet service provider. Optus was entitled to receive migration payments from NBN for each of its customers that moved from the Optus HFC network to an NBN based service.
Obtaining these payments became part of Optus’ annual financial targets and was referred to by Optus as “bounty”, which amounted to around $750,000 as a result of this conduct.
“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.”
Sims pointed out it is illegal for businesses to mislead their customers and create a false impression through their communications, and says today’s penalty serves as a warning to all businesses that such behaviour will be met with ACCC action.
Since the ACCC investigation commenced, Optus has paid $833,000 in compensation to affected customers for the disconnection of their services.