The Federal Court has ordered Melbourne-based NBN reseller Superfone to pay $300,000 in penalties after it was found making false or misleading telemarketing sales.
The telco was sued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in 2019 for allegedly cold-calling consumers between June 2017 to December 2018, offering them discounted plans on their existing network if they signed up to a new contract with Superfone.
The Federal Court sided with the ACCC in June 2020, ruling that Superfone contravened the Australian Consumer Law by making unsolicited consumer agreements.
The court also said the company’s telemarketing agents contacted some 1400 consumers, including many elderly people.
“Superfone’s behaviour was unacceptable. After making unsolicited calls, it misled consumers into entering contracts which the consumers did not want, and did not provide them with information about the ten-day cooling-off period or their rights to terminate the contract,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.
“When some consumers tried to cancel their contracts, they were charged termination fees.”
The court ruling also said Superfone targeted vulnerable consumers based on its customer base, or was at least only successful to secure unsolicited agreements with vulnerable consumers who were less capable of protecting their consumer rights.
Superfone was also ordered to email other consumers whose unsolicited agreements have expired but who are continuing to receive services from Superfone on a month-to-month rolling basis, offering them the opportunity to exit their contract with Superfone without charge.
The company admitted liability, but contested the penalty amount and other orders.
“All businesses must comply with the Australian Consumer Law provisions dealing with unsolicited calls and door to door sales, including the ten-day cooling-off period and termination rights. These laws exist to protect consumers when dealing with cold callers, and give them the opportunity to change their minds about a purchase or agreement they have made as a result,” Rickard added.
“We will continue to take enforcement action against businesses which contravene the unsolicited consumer agreements provisions.”