Optus will be issuing refunds to hundreds of its business customers after it breached telco billing rules by charging them for landline services they did not receive.
An Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) investigation found Optus continued to bill 994 of its small- and medium-sized business customers after they had transferred their service to other providers.
The total amount the telco will refund is $788,609.
According to the ACMA, the errors occurred between February 2011 and March 2021. Yep, ten years.
Optus actually self-reported the matter to the ACMA and independently committed to issue refunds.
Optus advised that the issue occurred due to incorrect billing end-dates being entered into its system for customers transferring to other telcos.
With the individual refund amounts varying, 15 of these customers were charged more than $10,000. A pretty big hit for a small business.
Optus is the second largest telco in Australia and ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said it should have systems in place to ensure it complies with all relevant regulation.
“It is alarming and unacceptable that such a fundamental flaw went undetected in Optus’s systems for so long,” she said.
“We are closely monitoring Optus to ensure it refunds all affected customers and takes action to reduce the risk of future billing errors.”
Under the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code, telcos must be able to demonstrate that charges on their bills are valid. In this case, the Optus charges weren’t valid because the company was no longer providing these services to the affected customers.
Any further non-compliance with the TCP code could lead to significant consequences, with penalties of up to $250,000 for failure to comply with the ACMA direction.
Optus has contacted all affected customers and to date repaid 98 per cent of the charges plus interest. The company is also reporting back to the ACMA regularly on its refunding program, the regulator said.
An Optus spokeswoman, meanwhile, said the telco would continue to work with ACMA on its refunding program.