Late last week, Optus was stung to the tune of $6.4m by the Federal Court of Australia, following legal action taken by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission over misleading NBN claims.
Last May, the telco emailed some 139,000 broadband customers advising them that their existing (pre-NBN) broadband services from other carriers would be disconnected shortly thereafter as part of the transition to the NBN.
As part of the advice, the customers were encouraged to switch their services to Optus’ NBN offer. The ACCC argued – successfully – that the claims that customers would be imminently disconnected were misleading, because very few of the customers contacted actually faced such risk.
Generally speaking, when the majority of a particular area is ready for service with the NBN, an 18-month process changeover process commences. Once that 18 months is up, customers that have not migrated from pre-NBN services to NBN may be at risk of disconnection, though of course there’s communication throughout that period to avoid people being cut off unintentionally.
As part of this process, RSPs are given address details for those properties ready for NBN service, and they are able to pitch their services to those properties in a bid to win their business. There’s no issue with this, but as many of the 139,000 customers contacted by Optus had already made the move to NBN services, the claims about being disconnected were provably false.
In a statement, Optus claimed the email had been sent by mistake:
“Friday’s Federal Court proceedings and the orders handed down bring closure on an action originally brought by the ACCC in June 2019 regarding a marketing email mistakenly sent to customers in May 2018 about the disconnection of their broadband service,” they said.
“Optus co-operated with the ACCC throughout this process and we reaffirm our apology to customers who received the mistaken communication in 2018. We have already offered a costless exit for those customers who took up the offer.”