The Australian Communications and Media authority (ACMA) has issued Telstra with a formal warning for failing to send data usage email notifications to more than 150,000 mobile broadband customers, leading to people having to pay unexpected excess usage charges.
The issue was caused by Telstra’s systems being set to send SMS notifications which were unable to be received by broadband customers not connected with a mobile phone account.
ACMA Chair, Nerida O’Loughlin said Telstra self-reported to the ACMA that between September 2013 and May 2019 it breached its obligations under the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code to send usage notifications via email.
“Usage notifications give people due warning that they may be about to incur additional charges for their broadband services,” Ms O’Loughlin said.
“The code requires suppliers to send notifications within 48 hours of customers reaching specified data usage quotas on post-paid internet plans.
“Consumers have a right to make informed decisions about their broadband use, and by failing to send these notifications in the correct format people have had to pay excess usage charges without sufficient warning.”
Telstra advised it has automatically refunded all customers who lodged a complaint about excess usage over the relevant period or incurred an excess usage charge of $5 or less. It has also written to all other affected customers who can claim a refund via an online form.
“We encourage current or former Telstra mobile broadband customers to contact Telstra for a refund if they believe they incurred excess usage charges as a result of not receiving a usage notification,” Ms O’Loughlin said.
Ms O’Loughlin advised that any further breaches of the code would likely result in more serious regulatory action.
“The ACMA has asked Telstra to report regularly on its progress of refunding affected customers until all customers have been reimbursed,” Ms O’Loughlin added.
Since 2013, the TCP Code has included safeguards to assist mobile broadband customers manage their expenditure and data usage.
Telstra customers who believe they incurred excess usage charges as a result of not receiving a usage notification during the above periods can contact Telstra on 13 22 00.