The consumer watchdog has launched federal court proceedings against Optus, alleging the telco pressured 20,000 customers to move to the national broadband network sooner than required.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission investigation comes following reports from customers and media in March this year that the telco was writing to customers saying it would disconnect their existing service in as little as 30 days as the NBN was coming to their area.
The timeframes were earlier than Optus was contractually allowed to cancel the customers’ services, the watchdog said on Friday.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the misrepresentations, which allegedly occurred between October 2015 and September 2016, put pressure on customers to move to the NBN sooner than needed.
“This is particularly concerning as Optus received a significant financial payment from NBN Co for each customer that moved from its cable network to the NBN,” Mr Sims said.
Optus receives a payment from NBN Co, the company in charge of building the NBN, for every customer that migrates from its pre-existing cable network to the NBN.
In 2011, NBN Co predicted Optus would receive a total post tax net value of $800 million from customers migrating to the NBN.
The ACCC also alleges that Optus misled some of its customers about NBN purchasing options, by creating the impression that they were required to buy services from Optus when they could have chosen any internet service provider.
It is concerned that Optus cut off some of its customers’ internet services when it had no contractual right to do so.
The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, a publication order, compliance orders and costs.
Optus has admitted to providing some customers with insufficient notice of their options to migrate to the NBN.
“In late 2016, we made the decision to migrate customers off our broadband cable network to the NBN as soon as an area was serviceable,” an Optus spokesperson said in a statement on Friday.
“As a result, some customers were disconnected before they migrated to the NBN.”
The telco said that when it became aware of customer concerns it suspended all migration activations and reconnected those affected “as quickly as possible”.
“We also compensated customers who had been disconnected without sufficient notice,” Optus said.
The telco said it had “successfully addressed” the issues and was working co-operatively with the ACCC to resolve concerns.