The competition watchdog says the Singtel-owned firm emailed 138,988 of its mobile phone customers in May 2018, telling them their existing broadband services would be disconnected “very soon” and encouraging them to switch to Optus NBN.
In fact, the customers were not facing immediate disconnection of their existing broadband services, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said on Monday.
Once NBN has announced an area ready for service, consumers generally have 18 months to switch, although some service providers might have shorter time frames, the ACCC says.
“We took this case against Optus because we were concerned its emails created a false sense of urgency for consumers and may have discouraged them from shopping around for the best deal available,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.
Optus says the marketing email was sent by mistake and that it had co-operated with the investigation.
“We reaffirm our apology to customers who received the mistaken communication in 2018,” a spokeswoman said.
“We have already offered a costless exit for those customers who took up the offer.”
The ACCC, however, noted that this was the fifth time it has instituted proceedings against Optus in the last 10 years, and the second time in two years the Federal Court has fined Optus over its NBN marketing.
In 2018, Optus was ordered to pay $1.5 million for falsely telling 14,000 of its customers from 2015 and 2017 their services would soon be disconnected if they didn’t switch.
“We are concerned about Optus’ recent track record in misleading consumers about the NBN,” Sims said.
“We expect that this $6.4 million penalty will serve as a warning to Optus and other telcos that they must not mislead consumers about their choices when the NBN is being rolled out.”
Want to comment?
Send us an email, making it clear which story you’re commenting on and including your full name (required for publication) and phone number (only for verification purposes). Please put “Reader views” in the subject.
We’ll publish the best comments in a regular “Reader Views” post. Your comments can be brief, or we can accept up to 350 words, or thereabouts.
Local News Matters
Media diversity is under threat in Australia – nowhere more so than in South Australia. The state needs more than one voice to guide it forward and you can help with a donation of any size to InDaily. Your contribution goes directly to helping our journalists uncover the facts. Please click below to help InDaily continue to uncover the facts.