Optus fined $6.4m for NBN lies
One of Australia's largest internet providers will be forced to pay $6.4 million for lying about the broadband services of more than 130,000 Australians in the latest consumer lawsuit over the National Broadband Network.
It is the second time Optus has been fined for misleading its customers about NBN disconnection dates after the company was slugged $1.5 million for the dodgy practice in 2018.
But customers affected by the false warnings will not receive compensation from Optus, only the ability to leave their contracts early.
The latest Federal Court action, brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, targeted Optus emails sent to 138,988 of its mobile customers in May last year.
The messages claimed customers' broadband services provided by rival companies would be "disconnected very soon" and urging them to connect to Optus NBN services and "make the switch before it's too late".
But ACCC chairman Rod Sims said consumers targeted by Optus were not facing imminent disconnection and "emails created a false sense of urgency" and "may have discouraged them from shopping around for the best deal available".
"We are concerned about Optus' recent track record in misleading customers about the NBN," he said.
"As the NBN rollout nears completion, consumers around Australia are making decisions about whether and when to move on to the NBN and what services are best for them. The industry should be helping consumers during this process, not providing them with misleading information."
In a similar case last year, Optus was forced to pay $1.5 million for misleading about 14,000 of its customers about their transition to the NBN. The company threatened to disconnect their broadband connection - some in as little as 30 days after the NBN arrived in their neighbourhood - unless they moved to the NBN.
Mr Sims said the latest, much larger $6.4 million penalty should act as a warning to Optus and other internet service providers about helping Australians to transfer their broadband service to the NBN.
Australians typically receive 18 months after their home is deemed 'ready to connect' to move their existing broadband service to NBN technology.
An Optus spokeswoman said the company was working to improve "customer experience and customer service across our business" but would not offer compensation to those affected by the misleading message.
"Optus co-operated with the ACCC throughout the process and we reaffirm our apology to customers who received the mistaken communications in 2018," she said.
"We have already offered a costless exit for those customers who took up the offer."