Optus has been issued a formal warning by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) for a software coding error that resulted in the telco overcharging approximately 237,500 postpaid mobile consumer and small business customers on its SurePage and SpinVox messaging services.
SurePage and SpinVox are alternatives to voicemail that divert unanswered mobile calls to an operator who converts the message into an SMS for the customer.
In October 2013, Optus said that the incorrect billing took place between July 2011 and September 2012. At the time, it contacted affected customers to apologise and provide a full refund with interest. The telco estimated that this would cost it $8.8 million, with more than 175,000 of the affected customers to receive a refund of $50 or less.
It also informed the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the ACMA and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.
The ACMA’s investigation found that Optus failed to identify and fix the cause of the billing inaccuracy in a timely fashion.
The Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code requires service providers to demonstrate and verify billing accuracy and address system problems as soon as practicable.
Optus admitted that it contravened these parts of the Code.
ACMA chairman Chris Chapman noted Optus’ “constructive engagement” with the ACMA’s investigation.
“We are now confident that Optus has rectified the billing inaccuracy and is reimbursing all affected customers,” he said in a statement.
Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) CEO Teresa Corbin said it was pleased that Optus self-reported the billing issue to ACMA.
She added that Optus customers who think they may have been affected by the issue but haven’t received a notification should contact the telco.
“Consumers should always check their monthly bill and contact their provider immediately if there are any unexpected charges,” Corbin said in a statement.
In response, an Optus spokesperson said the telco recognised today’s formal warning from the ACMA and the majority of affected customers have already received compensation. The remaining customers will receive compensation by the end of March 2014.
“At Optus, we have a single-minded focus to make things better for our customers, which means being honest and transparent about our mistakes, fixing them and compensating customers,” the spokesperson said.
Additional reporting by Adam Bender.
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