Optus to compensate customers over data reductions

Optus breached Australian Consumer Law three times over 2015 and 2016 in providing reduced data inclusions on its mobile broadband routers, prepaid plans, and 'Up to 2 Days on Us' bundles.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Optus prepaid plans subject to reduced inclusions

(Image: Screenshot by Corinne Reichert/ZDNet)

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has accepted an enforceable undertaking from Optus, which was found to have engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct in contravention of Australian Consumer Law by promoting data inclusions that either ended sooner or provided less than advertised.

Optus' court-enforceable undertaking [PDF] outlines the process by which it will seek to redress consumers who were not given the inclusions they were due under Optus promotions.

"Customers who chose an Optus Prepaid plan based on its advertised value, but who activated or recharged their SIM card after Optus changed allowances for calls, text, and data, received less than they were promised at the time they purchased the plan," ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.

"Mobile providers must provide the 'value' and benefits they advertise. Optus Prepaid customers who may be entitled to a credit should visit the Optus website or the outlet where they bought the prepaid product."

One of the three breaches saw customers who purchased Huawei mobile broadband devices from Optus between August 2013 and August 2015, but did not activate the SIM until after this time frame, provided with between 2GB and 4GB of data for 14 days instead of the advertised 6GB and 9GB for 30 days.

The second breach similarly saw Optus tell consumers in its "Up to 2 Days on Us" promotion between August 11, 2014, and November 2, 2015, that it would provide two days' worth of unlimited calls, unlimited texts, and 80MB to 500MB of free data; however, these inclusions were not given to those who purchased the plan on time but activated their SIM card after November 2.

Customers on Optus' My Prepaid Daily, My Prepaid Daily Plus, My Prepaid Monthly, and My Prepaid Monthly Plus plans experienced the third breach. According to the enforceable undertaking, consumers were given data inclusions for sometimes up to half the time frame advertised if a prepaid SIM card was activated after the inclusion change date.

For instance, those who bought a My Prepaid Daily plan prior to March 31, 2016, had 40MB of data included for 186 days; for those who bought the plan but activated their SIM after this date, they were given the data for just 90 days.

In an effort to redress the situation, Optus has agreed to give affected mobile broadband customers either the data they were due or, if they are no longer a customer, a cheque to the value of the data. The value of the refund is AU$10 per 1GB they were not given, while the amount of data to be provisioned ranges between 3GB and 5GB to be used within 30 days.

Affected prepaid mobile customers are similarly to be given credit to the amount specified or a refund: My Prepaid Daily customers will be given a AU$3 refund or 80MB per day and unlimited calls and texts for two days; My Prepaid Daily Plus customers a AU$4 refund or 500MB per day and unlimited calls and texts for two days; My Prepaid Monthly customers a AU$3 refund or 160MB per day and unlimited calls and texts for two days; and My Prepaid Monthly Plus customers between AU$25 and AU$50 as well as unlimited calls and texts and two days' worth of data depending on their recharge.

Optus is required to make an equivalent donation "to an appropriate organisation to be agreed with the ACCC" for when it does not refund a customer.

It is required to display a notice at all of its retail stores, third-party reseller stores, and on its website for 60 consecutive days.

Within 90 days, Optus must provide the ACCC with a report providing details on the number of customers it contacted via text message or email, gave credit to, and gave refunds to, as well as the monetary amounts associated.

Optus must also establish a "Prepaid Product Development Compliance Program" that improves staff training, internal compliance reporting and risk assessment, as well as self-reporting material failures to the ACCC.

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