Optus has been ordered by the Federal Court to pay $6.4 million in penalties for misleading customers about the disconnection of home internet connections.
The claims, brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), focus on 138,988 emails sent out to mobile customers on 24 May 2018 that their home broadband services would be “disconnected very soon”.
The emails also encouraged customers to change to Optus National Broadband Network (NBN) broadband services.
However, these customers had home broadband services with other providers.
The Federal Court found that the statement was misleading or deceptive, as the customers who received the email were in no immediate threat of having their existing broadband services disconnected.
Rod Sims, ACCC chair, said as the NBN rollout is close to completion, consumers are considering their options in regards to if they should move to the NBN or not, and which provider they should move to.
“The industry should be helping consumers during this process, not providing them with misleading information. We are continuing to watch this area closely,” Sims said.
“We took this case against Optus because we were concerned its emails created a false sense of urgency for consumers and may have discouraged them from shopping around for the best deal available.
“We are concerned about Optus’ recent track record in misleading consumers about the NBN. 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.”
The order to pay penalties was a result of the ACCC instigating proceedings against Optus in June 2019 and is the second time in the last two years that the Federal Court has ordered Optus to pay penalties in relation to misleading consumers about the NBN.
This is the latest example of the ACCC pursuing telecommunication providers over misleading claims; SME telco provider BVivid was ordered to pay $25,200 for their cold calling practices in September 2019 and Dodo Services were ordered to pay $360,000 in refunds to customers over false streaming claims in July 2019.