Allphones falls at first hurdle in Optus fee fight

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Allphones falls at first hurdle in Optus fee fight

Former partners battle in court over commissions.

Former Optus reseller Allphones has fallen at its first attempt to get compensation from the telco for miscalculation of commissions throughout the pair's long-running partnership.

Allphones was an authorised Optus dealer until August 2013 when the telco revealed it would dump its retail distributors and open more Optus-branded stores. The move resulted in Allphones losing $25 million in the following year.

The pair's deal included commissions paid to Allphones based on sales of Optus plans.

However, Allphones late last year took Optus to court to find out whether it had a case to pursue for compensation over wrongly calculated commission payments made over a number of years.

The errors - made from 2007 to 2014 - resulted in "not insubstantial overpayments and underpayments", Justice Jagot said in its judgment of the case today.

According to Optus, four major commission mistakes were made throughout the period. 

Allphones was underpaid around $295,000 from May 2011 to May 2013 due to Optus' failure to account for customers recontracting, and was overpaid $830,000 between October 2007 to August 2011 after Optus neglected to deduct equipment charges from customer usage charges.

The reseller was also overpaid $126,343 in December 2012 thanks to an incorrect configuration of new Optus customer plans, and underpaid $279,447 in November 2013 as a result of a duplication in Optus' billing system.

The issues prompted Optus to review its entire billing system in early 2014, at which point it discovered a further underpayment of $43,783. All mispayments were rectified by February 2014.

However, the issues caused Allphones to wonder whether Optus had made any extra unknown underpayments and conduct its own analysis of three separate plans, which it said unearthed new errors.

It instituted court proceedings late last year to ask that Optus hand over documents to Allphones so the reseller could verify whether further unidentified mispayments had occurred given the claimed "systemic" issues with Optus' billing system.

But Justice Jagot today pointed out that Optus had explained the discrepancies highlighted in Allphones' analysis of the three sample plans and proven that no further shortfall in commission had occurred.

"There is no reason to doubt the cogency of that evidence," the judge said.

Jagot therefore knocked back the application, arguing that Allphones had nothing other than suspicion that Optus had made further error and therefore had no right to ask for documents or relief from the telco.

"Even if this suspicion could amount to a belief, the suspicion, based on the evidence, should be a suspicion of overpayment, not underpayment," the judge ruled.

"Nothing in the evidence rises above the merest, and unfounded in any evidentiary sense, suspicion that Optus still might not have got things right."

He said Allphones already had all the information it needed to decide whether or not to pursue Optus for relief, dismissed the application and ordered the reseller to pay Optus' costs.

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