Optus must pay a fine of $6.4 million for misleading its customers into thinking their home internet would soon be disconnected.
In May last year, Optus sent emails to nearly 140,000 mobile customers saying that broadband connections provided by other telcos would be “disconnected very soon” and that customers should “make the switch [to Optus NBN] before it’s too late”.
The Federal Court ruled that Optus’s actions were misleading and deceptive.
Optus said in a statement that the emails were sent in error.
“Optus co-operated with the ACCC throughout this process and we reaffirm our apology to customers who received the mistaken communication in 2018," the statement said.
"We have already offered a costless exit for those customers who took up the offer."
The case was brought to the court by the ACCC in June because the emails “created a false sense of urgency for consumers and may have discouraged them from shopping around for the best deal available,” ACCC Chair, Rod Sims, said.
“As the NBN rollout nears completion, consumers around Australia are making decisions about whether and when to move onto the NBN, and what services are best for them,” Sims said.
“The industry should be helping consumers during this process, not providing them with misleading information. We are continuing to watch this area closely.”
‘Yes’, they’ve done this before
This is not the first time the ACCC has taken Optus to court for dodgy communications.
Early last year, the consumer watchdog started court proceedings for a batch of emails warning 20,000 customers that they would be disconnected when the NBN arrived.
Astonishingly, Optus was fined $1.5 million mere days before it sent out emails that have now cost the telco another $6.4 million.
Around 9,000 customers were also compensated in 2017 for not being able to get the NBN speeds that Optus advertised.
Rod Sims was optimistic that telcos would learn from Optus’ regular mistakes.
“We are concerned about Optus’ recent track record in misleading consumers about the NBN,” Sims said.
“We expect that this $6.4 million penalty will serve as a warning to Optus and other telcos that they must not mislead consumers about their choices when the NBN is being rolled out.”
Optus is one of the largest NBN providers and has received migration payments from NBN Co for customers that moved to the NBN.
In the last decade, the ACCC has taken Optus to court five times and issued the telco with 29 notices for infringing on the Competition and Consumer Act.