Optus has been fined $1.5 million by the federal court for trying to force customers off its HFC network and onto the NBN in a bid to fast-track migration payments from NBN Co.
The penalty amounts to around double what Optus is said to have made from the initiative, which was found to have misled customers over their rights.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said Optus told around 14,000 of its HFC customers that their services would be disconnected - “in as little as 30 days in some cases” if they did not move to the NBN.
The conduct occurred between October 2015 and March 2017.
The ACCC initiated court proceedings against Optus at the end of last year.
The watchdog said that under the terms of its contracts with customers, “Optus could not force disconnection within the timeframe it claimed”, nor could it force them to stay contracted to the company.
Under NBN Co’s migration arrangements, there is usually an 18-month window in which customers can transition off their legacy broadband systems over to the NBN.
There is no requirement to stay with the same broadband provider in this process.
The ACCC said that Optus had been after migration payments from NBN Co, which it is entitled to receive for every customer that moves off Optus’ HFC network over to an NBN service.
However, the watchdog alleged that obtaining these payments “became part of Optus’ annual financial targets and was referred to by Optus as ‘bounty’.”
The ACCC said Optus had cooperated after proceedings were filed, and had paid out compensation to affected customers of $833,000.