The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has started legal action against Sydney-based ISP SoleNet and its director James Harrison for alleged “unconscionable conduct” and “undue harassment” in selling telecommunications services.
The latest allegations from the ACCC claim that Harrison knowingly dissolved entities and transferred customers between carriers to avoid regulatory fines and unpaid debts.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the group’s conduct was “in all circumstances unconscionable”.
“The ACCC's case is that customers were not informed about, and did not consent to, their telecommunications contracts being transferred to other Harrison companies, which the ACCC alleges was largely to avoid regulatory difficulties and debts,” said Sims.
“It is alleged that this conduct was then compounded by the Harrison Companies seeking to enforce early cancellation and termination fees which were not part of any contract between the consumer and that company, and harassing consumers for payment of these alleged debts.”
CRN has contacted Harrison for comment. SoleNet’s website has been disabled and states the business is “currently not taking on new customers”.
The ACCC and industry authorities Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) have targeted the conduct of SoleNet and related companies since 2013, including its 11 different trading entities.
Harrison told CRN in December that he believes the regulatory bodies have a “vendetta” against him and that SoleNet has followed every clause in the telecommunications consumer protection code (TCP).
The ACCC will seek to disqualify Harrison as a business operator and obtain penalties and avenues for customer repayment.
Troubles began for Harrison's companies in May when ACMA alleged that SoleNet’s telemarketing campaign failed to notify new customers they would be transferred to a new provider if they signed up.
SoleNet was ordered to reimburse the TIO $20,000 for breaching the telecommunications consumer protection code (TCP).
In December, ACMA alleged that SoleNet – while trading under Comms Service Ops - attempted to churn customers from competing ISPs by offering services without properly notifying customers they were not their current provider.
Harrison said at the time all telemarketing activity ended in November.
Update: Harrison commented on the proceedings, saying: "The director has operated SoleNet with the best of intentions at all times to support consumers and adhere to the telecoms industry regulations although there may have been some technicalities on some documentation in the past, there is no cause for allegations of 'unconscionable conduct' in any way. SoleNet is working tirelessly to ensure that the consumers are not affected by the ACCCs actions.
"We hope that matters can be reasonably settled quickly to prevent further consumer detriment.”