Australian telco BVivid has been hit with a $25,000 fine for making a series of misleading cold calls about the roll-out of the National Broadband Network.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has entered into a court-enforceable undertaking with BVivid which will see the telco provide refunds to customers and offer a release from their contracts, along with a review of the company’s policies.
The ACCC issued BVivid with two infringement notices for making misleading telemarketing calls to consumers in areas transitioning to the NBN and for a failure to recognise the mandatory cooling-off period.
The ACCC found that between October 2017 and May 2018, BVivid cold called a number of consumers in areas about to receive the NBN and told them that their internet services would be disconnected or they could lose their phone number if they didn’t immediately move to the NBN.
These calls were misleading and likely breach Australian Consumer Law, ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.
“BVivid’s calls likely misled consumers and gave them a false sense of urgency and need. Consumers generally have 18 months from when the NBN becomes available in their area to switching before being at risk of disconnection,” Court said.
BVivid also likely breached consumer law when it accepted payments and provided services during the cooling off period, and also failed to give consumers the form they could use to terminate their contract and did not include their business address, as they are legally required to do, according to the ACCC.
“The unsolicited consumer agreement provisions are designed to protect consumers from being pressured by cold calling telemarketers into signing up to contracts they may not understand,” Court said.
“We are of the view that BVivid did not meet all their obligations to consumers who were subject to their unsolicited marketing practices. Consumers who find themselves signed up to a contract as a result of unsolicited marketing can cancel their contract without penalty within 10 business days of signing without needing to provide a reason.”
BVivid will now be contacting all impacted customers to offer them a release from their contract without charge, and to refund any termination fees that have already been paid.
An independent review will also be undertaken into BVivid’s policies, practices and procedures in relation to its sales and transfer methodology to ensure compliance with consumer law. The company will also introduce a new compliance program including annual training on consumer law, and procedures for recording and storing all telemarketing calls that result in an agreement with a consumer.
The action against BVivid was welcomed by Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Judi Jones.
“Consumers are being told information about moving to the NBN that is simply not true and puts them at a disadvantage,” Jones said.
“This is concerning behaviour from a small group of phone and internet providers and should stop.”
The ACCC also hit seven telcos with fines worth $100,000 in August for failing to reveal slow internet speeds and other information related to their NBN services. These were the first infringement notices issued under new rules designed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority to ensure consumers are provided with all the necessary information about their service.