Seven Australian telcos have been hit with nearly $100,000 in fines for failing to reveal slow internet speeds and other information relating to their NBN services.
It marks the first infringement notices to be issued under new rules designed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to make sure telecommunications companies provide consumers with the necessary information about their services.
The Telecommunications Industry Standard 2018, which came into effect in September 2018, requires key fact sheets and advertisements to be clear, accurate and up to date, comply with minimum requirements for information, provide data on speeds in peak and off-peak times and the remedies on offer to consumers.
The seven telcos - Activ8me, Aussie Broadband, Flip TV, Hello Broadband, Mate Communicate, My Net Fone and Telechoice - have paid a total of $88,200 in fines for a range of breaches of these standards.
“Failing to give consumers clear and honest information about NBN plans is unacceptable and can lead to misleading conduct as recently highlighted by the recent Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s report,” ACMA authority member Fiona Cameron said.
“Telcos need to provide information that will assist consumers to choose an NBN plan that suits their needs and if they don’t they will be held to account. These financial penalties send a strong message to telcos that they need to comply with the rules.”
Fines were handed down for offences including not clearly stating the off-peak times, having important information in smaller fonts, and not providing information on the remedies available to consumers if something goes wrong.
All the fines have been paid and the telcos involved are no longer in breach of the standards.
Aussie Broadband was hit with a fine for advertisements for two of its NBN plans being “not clear or accurate as they did not use the same plan names as their corresponding NBN consumer plan advertisements”.
The company failed to state that the listed speeds were the maximum possible speeds during off-peak periods, and didn’t list when the busy period applied.
My Net Fone was found to be providing the listed off-peak hours in a smaller font than the corresponding speeds, but under the ACMA standards this information needs to be at least as large as the speed tier information.
Mate Communicate was fined for not providing key fact sheets on its plans online, while Activ8me stated in an advertisement that one of its plans was “good for large downloaders”, but the ACMA ruled that this is “inadequate” information.
The ACMA issued 27 internet providers with formal warnings for breaching the standards late last year.
“Ensuring compliance with the rules helping consumers moving to the NBN is a priority for the ACMA in 2019-20 and today’s infringement notices demonstrate that they will be enforced,” Cameron said.
“Telcos have had ample time to familiarise themselves and ensure compliance with the NBN rules. Failure to comply in this late stage of the NBN rollout is not acceptable and warranted stronger action.”