Telstra has been forced to refund a whopping $9.3 million to 72,000 customers after the telco giant was found to have made false or misleading representations about charges for third-party content such as ringtones and games.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said the ruling should “serve as a warning” to other providers after Telstra was shown to have misled consumers in relation to its Premium Direct Billing third-party billing service.
In April this year, the Federal Court ordered Telstra to pay penalties of $10 million in relation to the ambiguous claims, as well as committing to undertake a consumer remediation program which has resulted in the $9.3 million of refunds to date.
“We are pleased to see so many customers refunded by Telstra, “ACCC Chair Rod Sims said. “It’s clear a large number were charged for content like ringtones and wallpapers that they did not want, did not use, and had difficulty unsubscribing from.
“Following our action, Telstra has paid close to $20 million in penalties and refunds. This should serve as a warning to all telecommunication providers that misleading and deceiving customers will result in serious consequences.”
In accordance with the court ruling, Telstra committed to repaying customers it could identify in its complaints records, or those who had contacted the company or the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman directly.
Sims added: “We’d encourage current or former Telstra customers to contact Telstra for a refund if they believe there were unauthorised charges on their account because of the PDB service. The ACCC is also conducting a detailed investigation into the third party billing services of other carriers and further enforcement action may well follow.”
Earlier this year, police issued a warning to the public to be wary of a new Telstra scam that was doing the rounds, urging people to “just hang up” if they received one of the dodgy calls.
Members of the Financial and Cyber Crime Group were alerted to the scammer, who claims they are from the Telstra Anti-Hacking Unit, telling people their email has been hacked. In a statement released by Queensland Police in July, Detective Superintendent Terry Lawrence warned people that calls from the scammer appear to originate from a southern state.
As part of the scam, the victim is instructed to log onto their email, with the scammer claiming there are overseas originating emails in the account, proving the email account has been hacked.