TELSTRA has refunded $9.3m to 72,000 customers who were charged for content they never wanted.
The Federal Court in April ordered Telstra to pay penalties of $10 million after it admitted to making false or misleading representations in relation to its ‘Premium Direct Billing’ service.
The court found the third-party billing service led to a significant number of customers unintentionally purchasing and being billed for content subscriptions without their knowledge or consent.
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The PDB service allowed mobile customers to purchase content, such as music and games, from third-party developers and have the charges automatically applied to their pre-paid or post-paid accounts.
But the telecommunications giant failed to adequately inform its customers that they would be billed directly by Telstra if they accessed the content, even unintentionally, the court heard.
Telstra admitted it was aware of the issue from early 2015 after it began receiving a large number of calls from disgruntled customers, disputing such charges.
Following April’s Federal Court ruling, Telstra committed to undertake a consumer remediation program, which has resulted in $9.3 million of refunds to date.
That’s in addition to at least $5m in refunds that were paid out by Telstra or third parties to customers during the operation of the PDB service.
The service was discontinued in March this year.
Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Rod Sims said it was pleasing to see so many customers being refunded.
“It’s clear a large number were charged for content like ringtones and wallpapers that they did not want, did not use, and had difficulty unsubscribing from,” Mr Sims said.
“Following our action, Telstra has paid close to $20 million in penalties and refunds.
“This should serve as a warning to all telecommunication providers that misleading and deceiving customers will result in serious consequences.”
Telstra committed to providing refunds to customers it could identify in its complaint records and those who contacted Telstra or the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman directly.
“We’d encourage current or former Telstra customers to contact Telstra for a refund if they believe there were unauthorised charges on their account because of the PDB service,” Mr Sims said.
“The ACCC is also conducting a detailed investigation into the third party billing services of other carriers and further enforcement action may well follow.”
Telstra customers who believe unauthorised PDB charges were applied to their accounts or prepaid service are encouraged to contact Telstra directly using the numbers below:
- Post-paid customers: 1800 007 763
- Pre-paid customers: 1800 007 413
- Business customers: 1800 007 830