On Tuesday The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced that NBN Co admitted to misleading some consumers in Canberra into believing their internet would be disconnected if they didn’t sign up for the NBN.
The court enforceable undertaking by the ACCC revealed that NBN Co sent letters to consumers and businesses between January and July 11 2019 that said they needed to move to the NBN in order to retain an internet connection. It turns out that this was not true for over 20,000 individuals and businesses that are on the TransACT VDSL2 network.
“It is unacceptable for NBN Co to tell consumers on other broadband networks such as the TransACT Network that moving to the NBN is their only option, when that is just not correct,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said in a statement.
“Moving to the NBN is an important decision and it can be confusing. Consumers should be able to trust that NBN Co is providing them with accurate information.”
According to the ACCC some of these customers were also charged an early termination fee for moving over to the NBN before July 10 2019 and then choosing to go back to the TransACT network. NBN Co is said to be reimbursing these customers and will also have to cover equipment and other related costs for any other customers who want to switch back to TransACT.
NBN Co is also said to be publishing corrective notices to all customers, on its website, in the Canberra times and in a paid Facebook ad. It will also be making a financial contribution of at least $20,000 to TransACT to make up for costs the telco sustained from correcting the misleading information sent to its customers.
NBN Co has also undertaken to publish corrective notices in the Canberra Times, through a paid Facebook advertisement and on the NBN Co website, as well as to make a contribution towards the costs incurred by TransACT in seeking to correct the misleading communications.
“The ACCC will not hesitate to seek high penalties in court against NBN, and other telcos, if we see this type of conduct again,” Rod Sims said.
NBN Co confirmed to Gizmodo Australia that it will be reimbursing affected customers “for the cost of ending their contract for nbn services early.”
“NBN Co has entered into a voluntary undertaking with the ACCC, regarding representations that were made to customers of the Transact VDSL2 Network in the Australian Capital Territory primarily in the first half of 2019,” said an NBN Co spokesperson in an email to Gizmodo Australia.
NBN is not the first telco to mislead when it comes to NBN connections. In December 2019 Optus was handed a $6.4 million fine by the ACCC for emailing 38,988 of its mobile customers to say that their home broadband connections would be cut off “very soon” and encouraged them to “make the switch” to an Optus NBN Broadband “before it’s too late”. These customers were on competitor broadband plans at the time and were not facing imminent disconnection.
The announcement of this fine was made mere minutes after Optus sent out a press release announcing a charity intitiative that donated data to young Australians living in poverty.
This story has been updated with a comment from NBN Co.