Australia’s consumer watchdog has announced it will fight a finding by the Federal Court that TPG did not mislead consumers.
The appeal will come before the Full Federal Court at a date to be fixed.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has long-argued TPG mislead customers over a $20 non-refundable ‘prepayment’ it collected from customers over a 6-year period, amounting to millions of dollars.
But last month, a judge threw the case out of court, ruling that TPG had not engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct, and that the forfeiture clause was fair under consumer law.
At the time, the ACCC expressed disappointment in the verdict, with chair Rod Sims saying the competition watchdog was “carefully considering” the decision.
“We brought this case because we believed TPG misled its prepaid customers about their ability to use up their full prepayment for services outside their plans, and to obtain a refund of any unused funds when they ended their contract,” Sims said.
TPG, which also owns APPT and iiNet, is Australia’s second-largest internet service provider.
“We are appealing from this decision because we believe the Court made an error in deciding that TPG’s representations about this mandatory prepayment were not false or misleading,” Sims explained.
“Consumer awareness of important terms should not be expected where they are contained in the fine print of a long and detailed contract or, in the case of online contracts, after multiple clicks.”
“We remain concerned that TPG misled its prepaid customers about their ability to use up their full prepayment and to obtain a refund of any unused funds when they ended their contract,” Sims said.
A hearing for the appeal before the Full Federal Court will be fixed at a later date.
In more bad news for TPG, the internet company was recently knocked off its perch as Australia’s fastest ISP, with Optus taking the crown.
Customers signing up to TPG had to pay a $20 fee to cover services not included in customers’ plans, such as international calls.
“A reasonable consumer would expect that this $20 payment would be refunded if it was not used, but in fact it is non-refundable,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
“It is unacceptable that TPG only discloses this forfeiture in fine print.”
Further, if the prepayment fell below $10, it was automatically topped up to $20.
This means that customers couldn’t use at least $10 of the prepayment for telecommunications services when they cancelled their plan, which was not disclosed, said the ACCC.
“Since March 2013, the ACCC estimates that TPG is likely to have retained millions of dollars paid by consumers in prepayments that were forfeited,” Ms Rickard said.