ACCC takes Telstra, Optus and TPG to court over deceptive NBN FttN speed allegations

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An NBN FttN node getting a Nokia line card installed

Image: Corinne Reichert / ZDNet

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on Monday began proceedings in Federal Court against the country’s three largest telephone companies: Telstra, Optus and TPG.

The consumer watchdog alleges that the trio made false claims to consumers about the possibility of testing lines to determine the maximum speed on fiber connections to the node, informing the customer of the test results and suggest solutions if a line was running below to speed it up the telco sold it as.

The ACCC also said it alleged that the trio “falsely accepted payments” from customers for the NBN plans when they could not receive the speeds promised. He put the number of impacted customers in the “hundreds of thousands” range.

The watchdog said telecom operators did not have “adequate systems” in place to complete speed tests, notifications and the appeal process.

Telstra, Optus and TPG each promised to notify consumers within a specific or reasonable time if the speed for which they were paying could not be achieved on their connection. They also promised to offer them a cheaper plan with a refund. if so, “said ACCC President Rod Sims.

“Instead, we pretend they didn’t do these things, and as a result, many consumers have paid more than necessary for their NBN plans.”

The statements made by the carriers were on the websites and emails of the carriers from early April 2019 through late April 2020 for Telstra and TPG, and covered the 2019 calendar year for Optus.

The investigation began after Telstra self-reported parts of his conduct to the ACCC.

“It is important that Internet service providers such as Telstra, Optus and TPG give their customers accurate information so that they can make an informed choice on the service that best suits their needs and their budget”, Sims said.

“We are delighted that Telstra, Optus and TPG have promised to compensate consumers even before the lawsuit is finalized.”

The ACCC said it will seek court orders that include statements, injunctions, monetary penalties, publication orders and the implementation of compliance programs.

TPG said in a statement that it would “work things out” with its affected customers who have never received a maximum achievable speed notice.

“For the oversight, we are sorry,” said a company spokesperson.

“There were two key factors that contributed to this problem. The first was NBN Co’s failure to provide accurate and timely speed information to TPG Internet. The second was anomalies in the legacy processes of TPG Internet in place since 2017, and these were corrected after merging. ”

TPG added that its intention was not to evade its obligations, and of its 2 million customers, “only a small percentage” have not received any information.

OAIC Opens Investigation into Optus White Pages Privacy Breach

The Australian Information Commissioner’s Office (OAIC) ​​has opened an investigation into Optus, over concerns the company has violated people’s data by posting their information in the White Pages.

The OAIC is investigating Singtel Optus Pty Ltd (Optus) in connection with the 1988 Privacy Protection Act.

He said the investigation followed preliminary investigations by the CATO into data breaches involving the publication of Optus customer details in the White Pages, when individuals requested that their details not be published.

“Public disclosure of personal information against the will of individuals can potentially cause harm,” he writes.

In 2019, Optus confirmed that customer details were published on Sensis white pages. Approximately 50,000 customers were informed by the telephone company that their name, address, cell phone number and home phone number were published. Optus said at the time that approximately 40,000 were new customers already enrolled.

“The majority of affected customer details were already listed with Sensis prior to joining Optus,” a spokesperson told ZDNet at the time.

“As a priority, Optus has arranged for Sensis to remove customer details from its online website directory, carrier directory support and any future printed editions of the directories.”

The company said it had “notified and apologized” to affected customers.

The breach was discovered by Optus during a routine audit of 10 million customers.

The OAIC accepted a binding undertaking from ARC Mercantile in 2016 following a customer personal data breach that occurred when an ARC employee posted a customer spreadsheet in front of the money to Optus on Freelancer.com.

“Optus takes customer data protection and privacy seriously,” an Optus spokesperson told ZDNet in a statement at the time.

Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk had her post extended for three years on Friday.

“Since her appointment in 2018, Ms Falk has effectively headed the office of the Australian Information Commissioner,” said the Australian Attorney General.

“She has worked to increase the confidence of the Australian public in the protection of personal information by promoting understanding of privacy concerns and effectively resolving privacy complaints and investigations.”

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