ACMA investigation: Optus reimburses customers after a huge overcharge

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A telecom giant spent a decade mistakenly charging small Aussie companies a huge sum of money due to an “alarming and unacceptable” mistake.

Optus will reimburse hundreds of companies totaling nearly $ 800,000 after spending the past decade charging them for fixed services they no longer had.

An investigation by the Australian Communications Guard found that Optus continued to charge 994 SMEs after transferring their service to other providers, in breach of billing rules.

Nerida O’Loughlin, chairwoman of the Australian Communications and Media Authority, said it was “alarming and unacceptable” that a “fundamental shortcoming” had not been detected in Optus’ system for so long.

The errors occurred between February 2011 and March 2021, which is when ACMA says that Optus itself reported the issue and independently undertook to issue refunds.

ACMA said that Optus announced that the problem arose due to incorrect billing end dates that have been entered into the system for customers transferring to other telecoms.

“Errors like these by Optus can have a big impact on small businesses. Fifteen of those customers were charged more than $ 10,000, which can be a huge amount for a small business to lose, says O’Loughlin.

Optus is the second largest telecommunications company in Australia and should have systems in place to ensure compliance with all relevant regulations.

“We monitor Optus closely to ensure that it reimburses all affected customers and takes steps to reduce the risk of future billing errors.”

According to the Telecommunications Protection Code (TCP), telecommunications must be able to demonstrate that charges on their bills are valid.

Following the investigation, ACMA says it has formally instructed Optus to comply with the TCP Code or risk being fined up to $ 250,000 for non-compliance.

ACMA says that Optus has contacted all affected customers and so far has repaid 98 percent of the fees plus interest.

A spokeswoman for Optus said telco would continue to work with ACMA on its repayment program.

“Between February 2011 and March 2021, a small number of Optus Business customers were charged for fixed services due to system invoicing errors,” he said.

“Optus reported the matter to ACMA together with our commitment to issue refunds.”

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