ACMA found Telstra kept 50,000 users on NBN plans their copper could not hit

Over a period of two years, Telstra did not provide customers with the option to degrade when their copper was not up to scratch.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
Image: Getty Images

Last month, Telstra fessed up that it had not been providing customers with the option to shift their NBN plan downwards when they were on a NBN plan that was too fast for the copper infrastructure in their premises.

"As we became aware of these issues, we reported them to the ACCC and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and have developed a comprehensive remediation programme. This programme started in February 2021 and we'll contact customers over the next few months," Telstra global connectivity and platform products lead Sanjay Nayak said at the time.

The telco was circumspect on the details of the issues it reported, however on Wednesday, ACMA was not.

The regulator said Telstra failed to alert 49,092 customers to the situation and give them an option to downgrade.

"The ACMA is very concerned with this conduct as these customers have been paying for a level of service they were not receiving," ACMA chair Nerida O'Loughlin said.

"Telstra denied these customers the opportunity to downgrade their plan or exit their contract."

Covering all customers it has found were not offered downgrades, Telstra is expected to pay AU$25 million in refunds, and the telco was issued a remedial direction to have an independent audit conducted on its systems, as well as making changes to ensure it is compliant in future.

ACMA also said Telstra broke rules that prevent telcos from charging for NBN services for the 10 days after customers are advised of their options and when they have not selected a course of action.

"If Telstra fails to comply with its remedial direction it could face penalties of up to $10 million" ACMA said as it gripped its wet lettuce.

In its explanation, Telstra said it would be informing customers of the maximum possible speeds on their fibre-to-the-node, fibre-to-the-basement, or fibre-to-the-curb connection after 21 days. For homes that have previously been connected to the NBN, Telstra said it would tell users the maximum speed available under the moniker of "dynamic service qualification tool".

"If dynamic service qualification data isn't available -- for example, if their home hasn't been connected to the NBN yet -- then customers on FttN and FttB won't be able to purchase our [100Mbps] premium speed plan," Nayak said.

"Once connected, we'll let them know what speeds their connection can support, and they will have the option to upgrade to the premium plan if available to them."

In May, Telstra paid a AU$1.5 million fine after ACMA found the telco had stopped porting phone numbers due to the COVID-19 pandemic hitting its offshore operations.

ACMA said over 42,000 services were impacted by the pause instigated in March 2020, and that Telstra took until October to clear the backlog once normal service was resumed in July.

"The ACMA found that Telstra unilaterally cancelled transfer requests that were scheduled to occur and stopped accepting new requests," it said.

"This was done without prior warning to other telcos, which were left not being able to help new and existing customers to transfer their service, while keeping their phone number."

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