Telstra has been fined just over $3 million for charging customers $21.1 million for inactive internet services over an 11-year period.
An Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) investigation found 6532 customers, most of whom were small businesses, were wrongly billed by Telstra an average of $2600 between April 2012 and August 2023.
By wrongly charging these customers, the telco breached customer billing accuracy rules under the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code, and breached a formal ACMA direction given three years go to comply with the Code.
In 2020 the regulator found Telstra had overcharged more than 10,000 customers almost $2.5 million over a 12-year period. In 2022 it found the company had overcharged more than 11,000 customers about $1.7 million.
ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the regulator had lost patience with the telco.
“Telstra has a history of incorrectly billing customers and it’s just not good enough,” Ms O’Loughlin said.
“At a time when many small businesses are facing economic pressures, unaccounted costs can create very real stress and financial hardship.
“All telcos must have robust billing systems in place to ensure that consumers, including small businesses, are only paying for agreed and active services.”
Telstra told the ACMA the billing issues were caused by the company failing to follow steps in its ADSL internet service deactivation process.
“Telstra is a major player in the Australian telco sector, and it needs to continue to prioritise its billing compliance and get its systems in order,” Ms O’Loughlin said.
Telstra has refunded $17.7 million, with the remainder due to be refunded by the end of the year.