‘Not Good Enough’: ACMA Slaps Telstra With A Three Million Dollar Fine For Consistent Billing Errors

‘Not Good Enough’: ACMA Slaps Telstra With A Three Million Dollar Fine For Consistent Billing Errors

The ACMA has handed out a penalty of $3,010,320 to the nation’s biggest telco, Telstra for billing errors.

The fine relates to a a pattern of inaccurate billing that, as per the ACMA, took place over 11 years relating to Internet services for small businesses that were in fact inactive.

Along with the $3,010,320 penalty, Telstra’s also going to refund some $21.1 million dollars to 6,352 customers, each of whom were charged around $2,600 each over that period.

The ACMA notes that some $17.7 million has already been refunded, with a further $3.4 million due to be refunded by the end of the year. That’s quite the billing error, and the ACMA is not happy.

Typically, regulators use quite measured language when describing issues, because they can lead to court actions where the precise meaning of words and phrases can have significant aspect. ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin isn’t quietly stepping around this one, however, stating that the ACMA has “lost patience” with Telstra.

“Telstra has a history of incorrectly billing customers and it’s just not good enough,” she said.

“All telcos must have robust billing systems in place to ensure that consumers, including small businesses, are only paying for agreed and active services.”

It’s certainly not the first time Telstra has drawn the ire of the ACMA this year, including issues relating to customer notifications and failures in providing adequate services to vulnerable customers.

In this case, the fact that the services were inactive seems to rest with the fact that they were ADSL services. You’ve probably not thought about ADSL for a good long time, if ever, and Telstra seems to be blaming its own forgetfulness too as to why the billing errors occurred.

It told the ACMA that the errors occurred due to “the company failing to follow a series of steps in its ADSL internet service deactivation process.”

In a statement to Gizmodo Australia, Dean Salter, Telstra’s Global Business Services Group Executive said:

Getting something as important as billing wrong isn’t acceptable, and this is clearly not the experience we want to be providing our customers.

These ADSL billing errors occurred because we didn’t follow the proper deactivation process, including when some customers migrated to the NBN, which resulted in some customers being charged for inactive services.

We’ve reached out to our customers to explain what went wrong and what we’re doing to fix it, including refunding them for the incorrect charges with interest.

We know our customers deserve better, which is why we reported the issue to ACMA and conducted our own extensive investigation. We have put new controls in place to prevent this issue from happening again, including monthly checks if ADSL services are being used by customers before they’re billed.

We’ve let these customers down. We apologise for this, and it’s clear we need to do better.

Telstra has committed to implementing controls in its system to actively monitor ADSL service usage and to only bill customers if a service is being actively used. The company will also report to the ACMA in six months in relation to the effectiveness of these controls.

It’s all but certain that the penalty figure is derived from some kind of formula and percentage rate, but I can’t be the only one amused by the $20 at the end of that $3,010,320, can I? It feels like just that little extra kick to the ribs because the ACMA could.

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