Telstra fined by watchdog for overcharging Aussies
Thousands of Telstra customers have been refunded after the telecoms giant was fined by the communications watchdog for wrongly overcharging Australians over an 11-year period.
An Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) investigation found that between April 2012 and August 2023, 6,532 customers were charged an average of $2,600 for inactive internet services.
Telstra has since paid out a whopping $24 million in fines and refunds for the “significant” billing error.
The figure included a $3,010,320 fine and more than $17 million in refunds to customers who were wrongly overcharged.
Telstra has paid out $24 million in fines and refunds for the latest 'significant' billing error that has affected thousands of customers
Thousands of Telstra customers have been refunded after the telecoms giant was fined by the communications watchdog (stock image)
Another $3.4 million will be repaid by the end of the year.
This is the third time in three years that Telstra has wrongly overcharged its customers.
In a scathing statement on Wednesday, ACMA chair Nerida O'Loughlin said the media watchdog had “lost patience” with Telstra after the latest billing debacle.
In September 2020, the ACMA found that Telstra had overcharged more than 10,000 customers by almost $2.5 million over a twelve-year period.
A separate investigation in 2022 found Telstra overcharged more than 11,000 customers by about $1.7 million.
“It's just not good enough,” Ms O'Loughlin said.
'At a time when many small businesses are facing economic pressures, unaccounted costs can cause very real stress and financial distress.
'All telecom companies must have robust billing systems in place to ensure that consumers, including small businesses, only pay for agreed and active services.
“Telstra is a major player in the Australian telecoms sector and it must continue to prioritize billing compliance and get its systems in order.
Telstra has blamed the billing problems on the company's failure to follow the steps in the deactivation process of its ADSL internet service after customers switched to the NBN.
The telecom giant has admitted that affected customers deserve better. Pictured is Telstra CEO Vicki Brady
In a statement to Ny Breaking Australia, Telstra said it self-reported the issue to ACMA and refunded the majority of customers, along with interest.
The telco will contact the remaining customers.
“Being billed incorrectly is not acceptable, and it is clearly not the experience we want to provide to our customers,” said Dean Salter, director of global business services.
We have let these customers down. We apologize for this, and it is clear that we need to do better.
'We have contacted our customers to explain what went wrong and what we are doing to resolve the issue, including refunding the incorrect charges with interest.
New processes have been put in place to prevent this from happening again.
Telstra has been urged by the communications watchdog to prioritize compliance with billing rules and get its systems in order
“These ADSL billing errors arose because we did not follow the correct deactivation process, including when some customers migrated to the NBN, which resulted in some customers being charged for inactive services,” Mr Salter added .
'We have introduced new controls to prevent this issue from happening again, including monthly checks to see if ADSL services are being used by customers before they are billed.
The company will report to the ACMA on the effectiveness of the new controls in six months.
ACMA has threatened further action, including initiating proceedings in the Federal Court if further breaches of billing accuracy rules occur.
Customers who suspect they have been billed incorrectly are urged to address the issue with the provider and contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman if the issue cannot be resolved.