Australia’s Federal Court has ordered Optus to pay penalties of AUD1.5 million (USD1.1 million) for making misleading representations to customers about their transition from the telco’s HFC network to the National Broadband Network (NBN). According to the Australia Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), between October 2015 and March 2017 Optus was said to have advised around 14,000 of its fixed broadband subscribers that their service would be disconnected – in as little as 30 days in some cases – if they did not move to the NBN. It was also claimed that Optus had made disingenuous representations to customers that they had to sign up to its NBN services, when in reality, they could have chosen any ISP. Optus reportedly benefited by around AUD750,000 as a result of its actions. It was, however, noted that since the start of an investigation into the matter by the Australia Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Optus has already paid AUD833,000 in compensation to affected customers for the disconnection of their services.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said of the final ruling: ‘Optus pressured customers by misrepresenting the time period in which services could be disconnected … It is illegal for businesses to mislead their customers and create a false impression through their communications. Today’s penalty serves as a warning to all businesses that such behaviour will be met with ACCC action.’