Optus has been handed a $1.5 million fine over misleading claims involving the NBN, with the Federal Court penalising the telco for what it told customers about their transition from Optus’ HFC network to the National Broadband Network.
Competition regulator the ACCC began legal action against Optus last December, alleging it misled around 14,000 customers over 18 months about the need to move quickly from its existing HFC network to the NBN.
The ACCC said Optus made around $750,000 between October 2015 to March 2017, when it told 14,000 customers their services would be disconnected if they did not move to the NBN.
The country’s third largest NBN provider received migration payments from NBN Co when customers switched, dubbing it “bounty”. Optus made those payments part of its annual financial targets.
The threatened shutdown date was earlier than Optus was contractually allowed to cancel the service.
Sometimes customers had just 30 days to switch and Optus misled them by saying they had to sign up to Optus NBN services when they could have signed with any provider.
Since the competition watchdog began investigating, Optus has paid $833,000 in compensation to the customers involved.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said Optus pressured customers with misleading statements that distorted their decision making.
“Today’s penalty serves as a warning to all businesses that such behaviour will be met with ACCC action,” he said.
Sims said Optus co-operated over the ACCC action.
Ironically, the NBN paid $800 million to Optus for its old hybrid fibre-coax (HFC) infrastructure, but later dumped it from its broadband rollout plans because it was too degraded.
The latest legal action comes after Optus refunded NBN customers after promising them broadband speeds they couldn’t possible get.
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