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Optus warned for overcharging customers AU$9m

Optus has been warned by the Australian Communications and Media Authority for overcharging 237,500 customers a total of AU$8.9 million between July 2011 and September 2012.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has issued a formal warning to Optus over an IT upgrade error that saw 237,500 customers overcharged a total of AU$8.9 million, between July 2011 and September 2012.

Optus informed the ACMA in September last year that it had picked up billing discrepancies in its SurePage messaging and SpinVox voice to text services. The company noticed an error made during an IT upgrade had caused charges to be applied incorrectly to customer accounts dating back to 2008. Optus became aware of the problem in August 2011, but was unable to identify the issue until July 2012, and didn't fix it until September 2012.

All customers were reimbursed, and the public was informed, but Optus admitted to the ACMA that it had failed to identify and fix the problem as soon as possible.

The ACMA decided to formally warm Optus under the telecommunications consumer protection (TCP) code to comply with the code, but ACMA chairman Chris Chapman praised Optus' work in resolving the issue.

"I want to note Optus' constructive engagement with the ACMA's investigation," Chapman said.

"We are now confident that Optus has rectified the billing inaccuracy and is reimbursing with interest all affected customers."

An Optus spokesperson said the company had worked proactively to resolve the error.

"At Optus, we have a single-minded focus to make things better for our customers, which means being honest and transparent about our mistakes, fixing them and compensating customers," the spokesperson said.

"The majority of affected customers have already received compensation, with the rest receiving it by the end of March."

Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) CEO Teresa Corbin said that Optus customers should check their bills to see if they have been affected.

"Consumers should always check their monthly bill and contact their provider immediately if there are any unexpected charges. Recent research by ACCAN, CHOICE, and the Consumer Action Law Centre discovered around one in five consumers are still receiving unexpected charges on their bill and of these consumers, almost 50 percent did nothing about it."

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