The billing “flaw” saw some customers charged up to $10,000 incorrectly, with the error impacting people for 10 years. Optus has been forced to refund close to $800,000 to almost 1000 businesses after charging them for landline services when they weren’t even customers anymore. An Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) investigation found Optus continued to bill customers after transferring their service to other providers.
The errors spanned 10 years, occurring between February 2011 and March 2021.
Optus advised ACMA that the issue occurred due to incorrect billing end dates being entered into its system for customers transferring to other telcos. ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said billing accuracy is a significant concern for consumers, including small businesses. Errors like these by Optus can have a substantial impact on small businesses. Fifteen of these customers were charged more than $10,000, which can be a considerable amount for a small business to lose,” she said.
“Optus is the second-largest telecommunications company in Australia and should have systems in place to ensure it complies with all relevant regulations. “It is alarming and unacceptable that such a fundamental flaw went undetected in Optus’s systems for so long.” She added that the ACMA is closely monitoring Optus to ensure it refunds all affected customers and takes action to reduce the risk of future billing errors. Under the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code, telcos must demonstrate that charges on their bills are valid.
In this case, the Optus charges weren’t valid because the company was no longer providing these services to the affected customers. Following the investigation, the ACMA has formally directed Optus to comply with the TCP Code. Any further non-compliance could lead to significant consequences, such as penalties of up to $250,000 for failure to comply with the ACMA direction. Optus has contacted all affected customers and, to date, repaid 98 percent of the charges plus interest.
The company is also reporting back to the ACMA regularly on its refunding program.
An Optus spokesperson said the telecommunication company reported the matter to the ACMA and committed to issue refunds. “As confirmed by the ACMA, Optus has contacted 100 percent of all affected customers and repaid 98 percent of the charges plus interest,” they told news.com.au. “We will continue to work with the ACMA on our refunding program.