Telstra, the nation’s largest telecommunications company, is facing a fine of over $500,000 from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) for overcharging more than 11,000 customers between 2018 and 2021.
The telco giants are also expected to refund more than $2 million dollars to these affected customers after an investigation from the ACMA found that Telstra had ignored a 2020 directive to comply with billing accuracy obligations.
The regulator’s 2020 investigations found that the carrier had overcharged at least 800 customers more than $1.2 million for a broadband service after they’d changed providers, while others were charged with internet plan setup fees that no longer applied.
Telstra has blamed the overcharging errors on issues of data transfer and outdated employee instruction.
However, ACMA chair Nerdia O’Loughlin said there’s “no excuse for overcharging customers.”
“Telstra had already been formally directed by the ACMA to comply with billing rules so should have moved to address these issues and not inconvenienced its customers further,” she said.
“Telstra is the largest telecommunications company in Australia … I would expect its billing systems to be more sophisticated and compliant with industry-wide consumer protection rules.”
O’Loughlin further stated that at a time when Australians are being more budget-conscious these types of errors may have caused “strain and distress” towards customers.
This isn’t the first time Telstra is refunding its customers over billing errors.
Back in July 2021, the telco giants refunded more than $25 million to customers after the ACMA caught them for charging almost 50,000 people for false information regarding their NBN speed.
The ACMA’s investigation found between September 2018 to October 2020 Telstra failed to inform their customers of their under-performing internet speeds and plan options.
According to ACMA guidelines, “telecommunications companies must verify the maximum attainable internet speeds and need to inform customers when those speeds can’t meet those advertised in their plan”.
In those circumstances, affected customers have the right to move down to a lower-tier plan at a cheaper price or end the contract without costs.
At the time, the ACMA had already directed Telstra to commission an independent audit of its systems and to implement a range of processes to assure future compliance with ACMA rules.