The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has issued fixed line incumbent Telstra with a formal warning for breaching the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code 2007 (TCP Code). Such action has been taken after the regulator claimed in November 2012 that the telco had incorrectly billed just over 260,000 customers a total of around AUD30 million (USD31.1 million) for international data roaming between 2006 and 2012. With the incorrect billing said to have reflected incorrect information received by Telstra from international carriers and its contracted data clearing house, the ACMA noted that when the operator discovered the issue it: ceased charging flag fall for international data sessions; and began arranging credits or refunds for all customers who had been affected.
Under the TCP Code providers are required to bill customers accurately, barring certain exceptions, one of which is where the inaccuracy is caused by reliance on information provided by contractors. With this particular exception the key issue in the ACMA’s investigation of this matter, the watchdog said it had found that Telstra could rely on it only until early 2009, at which date the telco received a complaint from a consumer who had been incorrectly billed for multiple overseas data sessions. In its examination of the matter the ACMA said that it had determined billing inaccuracies after that complaint was received were caused by ‘Telstra’s failure to investigate and identify the problems with the information being provided by its contractor’.
In outlining its reasoning for formally warning Telstra regarding the billing issue, the ACMA said that its took into account that Telstra was not the original cause of the problem, while it also noted that this was the first time a billing issue of this nature had been investigated under the TCP Code, and Telstra itself actually reported the matter. Further, the regulator said that the incumbent ‘appears to be otherwise currently compliant with the relevant parts of the TCP Code 2012’, while it also recognised Telstra’s proactive implementation of a ‘comprehensive program of compensation that mitigated the harm for affected customers’.