Telstra has again been fined by the Australian Communications and Media Authority over billing errors – this time, to the tune of $506,160.
The carrier has also refunded customers more than $1.73 million, and the ACMA has put it on notice that further errors could bring Federal Court action.
The regulator’s latest investigation was launched in 2020, after a prior investigation found the carrier had overcharged more than 10,000 customers around $2.5 million over 12 years.
That action also concluded with a formal direction that Telstra comply with billing accuracy rules.
In the follow-up investigation, Telstra reported itself to the ACMA, which found another 11,600 customers had received inaccurate bills, including 4400 billed wrongly after the prior direction was issued.
The errors occurred between July 2018 and October 2021, and Telstra committed to issuing refunds.
ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the infringement notice was issued because Telstra breached the 2020 direction.
“Telstra had already been formally directed by the ACMA to comply with billing rules so should have moved to address these issues and not inconvenienced its customers further,” O’Loughlin said.
“At a time when Australians are being very careful with their budgets, these errors are particularly concerning as they could have caused considerable strain and distress.
“Telecommunications is an essential service for Australian households and businesses, and there are no excuses for overcharging customers.”
The ACMA said 8000 customers were billed more than $1.2 million for Belong-branded services after they had moved telcos, and some were billed more than once.
Other transgressions included charging customers for internet plan setup fees that no longer applied, and overcharging for other phone services.
The carrier attributed the mistakes to systems errors that included a data transfer problem between its CRM and billing systems, manual processing errors, and outdated employee instructions.
“Telstra is the largest telecommunications company in Australia. I would expect its billing systems to be more sophisticated and compliant with industry-wide consumer protection rules,” O’Loughlin said.