Optus fined $10 million for unfairly billing customers

OPTUS has been slapped with a $10 million penalty for misleading customers and charging them millions of dollars for third-party services they subscribed to by mistake and couldn't easily stop.

And the company may face millions of dollars more in refunds as Australia's consumer watchdog warned victims were entitled to refunds and many had yet to come forward to collect them.

The massive fine was handed down by the Federal Court following an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission investigation into carrier billing for third-party services, such as ringtones and phone wallpapers.

It found Optus collected $195 million from its customers for the premium services, earning more than $65 million in commissions.

 

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said Optus customers should check their bills carefully. Picture: John Feder/The Australian
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said Optus customers should check their bills carefully. Picture: John Feder/The Australian

But the carrier also received more than 600,000 enquiries from customers, the ACCC found, and failed to inform them "direct carrier billing" was enabled on their accounts by default, did not have adequate identification procedures, and referred customers back to the third parties to stop the charges or obtain refunds.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said Optus' behaviour was "simply unacceptable" and deserved the large penalty imposed by the Court.

"In many cases, Optus customers had no idea they were buying anything and certainly did not need or want the content for which they were being charged," Mr Sims said.

"Optus failed to take appropriate action, choosing instead to continue to charge customers and collect commissions on these sales even after numerous complaints."

Rival Telstra was also fined $10 million in April last year after the Federal Court found it had unfairly collected fees for third-party premium services from more than 100,000 customers.

Optus has so far paid $8 million in refunds to customers but Mr Sims recommended anyone who believed they had been unfairly billed for premium services should contact the company on 13 39 37.



Bundaberg Magistrates Court appearances for today

Premium Content Bundaberg Magistrates Court appearances for today

Here is a list of matters listed at Bundaberg Magistrates Court

LUXURY HOME: Agnes property hits the market for a cool $2.5m

Premium Content LUXURY HOME: Agnes property hits the market for a cool $2.5m

The 11 bedroom, 7 bathroom house has hit the property market after it was last sold...

Sarina State High secures national bragging rights

Premium Content Sarina State High secures national bragging rights

A team from Sarina State High School excelled against rivals from Bundaberg in the...