Separate proceedings in the Federal Court have been instituted against each of Telstra, Optus and TPG Internet by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). In a press release regarding the matter, the watchdog said the court filings had been lodged against the three companies for making alleged false or misleading representations in their promotions of some 50Mbps and 100Mbps National Broadband Network (NBN) plans, in breach of the Australian Consumer Law.
The ACCC alleges that the companies made representations to some consumers on fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) connections that they would test the maximum speed of their connections, notify the impacted consumer of their maximum speed if their line was underperforming, and offer them remedies if the maximum speed was below their plan’s stated speed, but failed to do so for many customers. Further, the regulator has also alleged that Telstra, Optus and TPG wrongly accepted payments from certain customers for NBN plans when they were not provided with the promised speeds. The allegedly false and misleading statements were made on the companies’ websites and in e-mails to consumers from at least 1 April 2019 to 30 April 2020 by Telstra and TPG, and at least 1 January 2019 and 31 December 2019 by Optus.
It was noted the investigation into the matter had been prompted both by Telstra self-reporting elements of this conduct to the ACCC and by information in the ACCC’s Measuring Broadband Australia Reports indicating consumers were not receiving the speeds they were paying for. Commenting, ACCC chairman Rod Sims said: ‘Collectively, hundreds of thousands of consumers were allegedly misled by these three big internet providers, Telstra, Optus and TPG, which accepted payments for NBN speeds they could not provide … What makes this behaviour even more concerning is that Telstra, Optus and TPG were well aware of these issues and had earlier given undertakings to the ACCC to provide remedies to consumers who purchased NBN plans with speeds that couldn’t be delivered.’
Telstra, Optus and TPG are already reportedly contacting current and former customers who are affected to advise them if they are eligible for a refund, and offer alternative plans, or an opportunity to leave their contract without penalty, if appropriate. Meanwhile, the ACCC has said it is seeking ‘a range of orders, including declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, publication orders and the implementation of compliance programmes’.