Telstra forced to pay $2.2m after overcharging more than 11,000 customers
Telstra has been forced to cough up more than $2.2m after an Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) investigation found it overcharged more than 11,000 customers.
More than $1.73m has been refunded to customers, while $506,160 went towards paying an infringement notice.
An ACMA investigation found Telstra issued inaccurate bills to more than 11,600 customers between July 2018 and October 2021.
It comes after it was discovered back in 2020 that more than 10,000 additional customers had been overcharged almost $2.5m over 12 years.
Out of these 11,600 new overcharged customers, 4400 were given incorrect bills after the ACMA had issued a formal direction in 2020 for Telstra to comply with billing accuracy rules.
ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said Telstra was given an infringement notice for failing to comply with this formal direction.
“Telstra had already been formally directed by the ACMA to comply with billing rules so should have moved to address these issues and not inconvenienced its customers further,” Ms O’Loughlin said.
“At a time when Australians are being very careful with their budgets, these errors are particularly concerning as they could have caused considerable strain and distress.
“Telecommunications is an essential service for Australian households and businesses, and there are no excuses for overcharging customers.”
More than 8000 of the affected customers were charged for Belong-branded broadband services after they had moved to another telecommunication company.
They were collectively charged more than $1.2m because of this error, with some billed more than once.
Other problems customers faced included being charged internet plan set-up fees that no longer applied and being overcharged for phone services.
Telstra self-reported the errors to the AMCA and independently committed to issuing refunds.
The company cited issues in its internal system as the reason behind the errors, pointing to a data transfer problem between its customer relationship management system and billing system, manual processing errors and out-of-date employee instructions.
But Ms O’Loughlin said a company like Telstra should have better systems in place.
“Telstra is the largest telecommunications company in Australia. I would expect its billing systems to be more sophisticated and compliant with industry-wide consumer protection rules,” she said.
The ACMA said further contraventions of the direction to comply with billing accuracy rules could lead to the matter being taken to the Federal Court.
Originally published as Telstra forced to pay $2.2m after overcharging more than 11,000 customers
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