26 September 2023

Telstra offlined as ACMA finds overpayments

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The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has uncovered Telstra issuing inaccurate bills to more than 11,600 customers.

The offence was compounded by the fact that 4,400 customers were given incorrect bills after ACMA had issued Telstra with a 2020 formal direction to comply with billing accuracy rules.

According to ACMA, at that time it was found Telstra had overcharged more than 10,000 customers by almost $2.5 million over a 12-year period.

Chair of ACMA, Nerida O’Loughlin said the infringement notice was issued due to Telstra not complying with the 2020 direction.

“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,” Ms O’Loughlin said.

“At a time when Australians are being very careful with their budgets, these errors are particularly concerning as they could have caused considerable strain and distress.”

She said more than 8,000 affected Telstra customers were collectively charged more than $1.2 million for Belong-branded broadband services after they had moved to another telco. Some were billed more than once.

ACMA said other Telstra customers were charged internet plan set-up fees that no longer applied or were overcharged for other phone services.

Telstra self-reported the errors, which occurred between July 2018 and October 2021, to ACMA and independently committed to issue refunds.

Ms O’Loughlin said Telstra had advised ACMA that the errors occurred due to several issues with its internal systems.

“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,” she said.

“Further contraventions of the direction to comply could lead to the ACMA commencing proceedings in the Federal Court.”

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