Optus faces action over customer gouge

TELCO giant Optus faces a multi-million penalty for claims it unfairly slugged customers for ringtones, games and horoscopes they did not want or buy.

The competition watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, has today issued proceedings against the nation's second-largest telco carrier.

The ACCC alleged Optus made false or misleading representations to consumers and could face $10 million in penalties.

Its third-party billing service, more commonly known as DCB (direct carrier billing), is understood to have potentially impacted more than 240,000 customers.

Optus has conceded it failed to properly inform its customers DCB was a default account setting, meaning it was automatically set up.

If customers received premium content via their phone, even if they didn't want it, they would be charged for it.

ACCC chair Rod Sims said in an issued statement many unsuspecting customers were hit with unfair charges.

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims has commenced proceedings against Optus.
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims has commenced proceedings against Optus.

"A substantial number of Optus customers were signed up to subscriptions for expensive, often unwanted content without being required to enter payment details or verify their identity as occurs with many other online purchases," he said.

"Many customers didn't realise they were signing up to anything at all and in some cases family members such as children incurred these charges without the account holder's knowledge."

The proposed orders could result in Optus being forced to pay $10 million in penalties.

Mr Sims said the telco giant received more than 600,000 inquiries about this service but failed to act in the customer's best interests.

"Optus chose to continue to generate major profits at the expense of basic consumer protections," Mr Sims said.

Customers also had difficultly unsubscribing from these services.

Optus's vice president of regulatory and public affairs said Optus has offered refunds to customers for its conduct.

"Optus ceased offering the DCB service from 24 August 2018," he said in a statement.

"We acknowledge that some customers may have inadvertently subscribed to content they did not want or could not easily unsubscribe from.

"Optus has committed to undertake a comprehensive review of customers affected by this activity and to provide refunds where appropriate, taking into consideration the fact that some customers may already have been refunded."

It's been a horror year for Optus - new Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman statistics released today found complaints about Optus have also skyrocketed.

The telco was faced with outrage after continual outages with its World Cup streaming service.

Complaints about the telco rose by 35 per cent to more than 40,600 complaints last year.

Telstra complaints rose by 7.7 per cent, while complaints about the nation's third-largest telco Vodafone dropped by 8.7 per cent.



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