Telstra has been ordered to refund $2.5 million to customers for charging them for the use of interim phone services during connection delays or repairs of landline services.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said Telstra overcharged an average of $231 per customer between February 2008 to February 2020.
The watchdog said Telstra self-reported the issue and said the billing error resulted from “mistakes” after moving to a new customer relationship management system in 2008.
ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the overcharging was “a clear breach” of the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code.
“The amount charged for an interim service must not exceed what a customer would have been charged under their existing or requested landline service,” she said.
“Overcharging can potentially lead to financial difficulties for affected customers which is why the ACMA considers accuracy in billing practices to be an important consumer protection.
“For Telstra to allow an issue like this to go unnoticed for such a long time and impact so many customers, is simply unacceptable.”
O’Loughlin added that telcos must have adequate systems in place to prevent these errors from occurring.
“If telcos are relying on IT systems to meet their regulatory obligations then they must have appropriate testing and assurance processes in place to ensure compliance,” she said.
ACMA said Telstra “moved reasonably swiftly” to fix the problem after self-reporting in April this year. Affected customers have started getting refunds and removed all ongoing charging from interim services.