Optus overcharged customers almost $9 million | ACMA

Optus overcharged customers almost $9 million

Optus has been formally warned for inaccurately billing approximately 237,500 customers prior to September 2012.

An Australian Communications and Media Authority investigation found that between 23 November 2008 and 30 September 2012, Optus failed to accurately bill some customers in respect of its SurePage and SpinVox services, two ancillary messaging options for post-paid services.

Between November 2008 and July 2011, errors in an IT upgrade meant that 2,600 customers were overcharged. However, between 1 July 2011 and 30 September 2012, many more customers were affected by the error with an additional 235,000 customers overcharged a total amount of approximately $8.9 million.

The ACMA’s investigation also found that Optus failed to identify and fix the root cause of the billing inaccuracy as soon as practicable.

The Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code requires service providers to:

  • demonstrate and verify billing accuracy, and
  • identify and address systemic problems as soon as practicable.

Optus admitted contravening these code provisions.

‘I want to note Optus’s constructive engagement with the ACMA’s investigation,’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman. ‘We are now confident that Optus has rectified the billing inaccuracy and is reimbursing with interest all affected customers.’

The ACMA’s decision on this occasion to formally warn Optus is consistent with the approach take in a similar matter and took into account that Optus itself reported the matter; that Optus appears to be otherwise currently compliant with the relevant parts of the TCP Code 2012; and, importantly, that Optus proactively implemented a comprehensive program of compensation that mitigated the harm for affected customers.

For more information please see the backgrounder below, or to arrange an interview, please contact: Emma Rossi, Media Manager, (02) 9334 7719 and 0434 652 063 or media@acma.gov.au.

Media release 17/2014 - 27 March

Backgrounder

In September 2013, Optus self-reported to the ACMA that it had identified serious billing discrepancies with its SurePage and SpinVox services.

The billing discrepancies resulted from an error made by an IT programmer during a project upgrade. The error meant that charges were incorrectly applied to customer accounts. An oversight also occurred in the quality checking ‘clean-up’ of the software code for the new use.

The SurePage product manager became aware of the problem in late August 2011. However, the root cause of the problem was not identified until July 2012, and a permanent fix to address the root cause was not implemented until 30 September 2012.

Optus subsequently engaged an independent auditor to ensure it had rectified the issue and had adequately identified and is reimbursing all affected customers.

Optus conceded that it had failed to accurately bill customers and had failed to identify and address a systemic problem as soon as practicable.

Where the ACMA finds a breach of the TCP Code, it can:

  • agree with the telco provider on steps it will take to remedy the breach or improve compliance (in this case Optus has of its own volition identified all affected customers and undertaken to reimburse all affected customers, with interest)
  • give a Formal Warning
  • give a Direction to Comply with code provisions.

Since the code was registered in September 2012, the ACMA has increased its scrutiny of compliance, particularly where contraventions of the code are suspected.

To date it has:

  • issued 108 Formal Warnings
  • given 10 Directions to Comply
  • given one infringement notice for contravening a Direction to Comply.

Last updated: 13 May 2016