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Optus back in court over 'misleading' NBN disconnection campaign

Optus back in court over 'misleading' NBN disconnection campaign

Marketing email sent two days after receiving $1.5-million fine

Optus is being hauled back to court for allegedly sending customers misleading information, two days after being fined $1.5 million for a similar feat.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) claimed Optus sent 138,988 mobile customers an email offering its NBN broadband services advising them their connection may be ‘disconnected very soon’ — a false or misleading claim, according to the consumer watchdog.

Dispatched on 24 May 2018, the promotion encouraged consumers to ‘make the switch, before it's too late’, despite Optus allegedly knowing consumers were already being supplied with NBN-based services by a company other than Optus.

“Optus did not have any reasonable basis for asserting they would be disconnected," the ACCC stated.

The watchdog has now instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against the Singtel-owned telco, and is seeking declarations, injunctions, penalties, compliance orders and costs.

The 24 May email came as part of a two-month marketing campaign by Optus, which attempted to persuade mobile customers already with an NBN provider to switch to its own service. As such, argued the ACCC, these did “not face the prospect of imminent disconnection” ahead of the NBN roll-out.

Optus had also planned a different communication for mobile customers who were at the same time facing disconnection.

However, after engaging a creative agency, Optus marketing team approved the email with the words: “Your broadband will be disconnected very soon, make the switch before its too late”, which it subsequently sent to the customers who had already made the change.

“Optus failed to make reasonable or adequate inquiries before it sent the final email to ascertain whether the representation was accurate in relation to the representation,” the ACCC said.

Optus said in a statement it apologised to customers who received the mistaken communication and offered a costless exit for those who took out the offer.

In October 2018, Optus committed to improving customer experience and customer service across our business and we continue to devote significant energy and resources to address issues like this and make the necessary changes and improvements so we can deliver great service to all our customers," Optus vice president, regulatory and public affairs Andrew Sheridan said.

The email was sent two days after Optus had already been fined $1.5 million for telling 14,000 customers their service would be disconnected if they did not move to the NBN between October 2015 to March 2017.

The telco was also in hot water with the ACCC in December 2017 when it was ordered to compensate 8,700 customers for misleading claims about its maximum NBN speeds.

As of January this year, 90,000 customers are still to be refunded by telcos including Optus, Telstra and others over misleading NBN speed claims following a lengthy investigation by the ACCC.


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