Optus customers are encouraged to check if they have received an email or SMS from Optus about a refund they may be entitled to in relation to Optus’s Direct Carrier Billing (DCB) third-party billing service.
In February 2019, following ACCC action, the Federal Court ordered Optus to pay penalties of $10 million for making false or misleading representations about charges for digital content, such as games and ringtones, that were incurred to customers through its third-party billing service. At that time, Optus also committed to contacting potentially impacted customers who complained about the services and who had not already received a refund, as well as those customers identified by Optus as having been incorrectly charged.
This was to be in addition to the $21 million Optus and various third party providers had already repaid to 240,000 customers in the years before the proceedings.
Under the refund program Optus has contacted and offered refunds to over 390,000 customers but so far only around 25 per cent of these have taken up refunds worth $6.7 million according to an update it has provided to the ACCC.
“Many of the affected customers were charged for content that they never wanted and never used, and from which they found difficult to unsubscribe. In some cases children unwittingly incurred charges,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.
In addition to refunding customers, Optus has also committed to reviewing any future complaints about its DCB service and to dealing with those complaints in good faith.
The ACCC is urging Optus customers to call Optus on 1800 672 501 if they believe they may be entitled to a refund and have not yet been contacted by Optus.
Notes for Editors
Optus’ DCB service allowed customers to purchase digital content from third-party developers that sell content outside usual app marketplaces like Google Play or the App Store. Charges were automatically applied to customers’ mobile accounts.
The DCB service was automatically enabled on Optus customer’s mobile accounts, and customers could purchase content with as little as one or two clicks on their device.
As a result of the manner in which Optus set up its DCB service many customers inadvertently or unknowingly purchased and were charged for content they did not want or use.
In the course of resolving the ACCC’s investigation, Optus has ceased offering DCB services (other than a limited number of services for one-off content for TV shows, magazines and mobile gaming, which require express customer agreement to each purchase being charged to the customer's Optus account).
In October 2018, the ACCC commenced proceedings against Optus in the Federal Court by consent.
On 6 February 2019, the Court found that Optus misled consumers and breached section 12DB(1)(b) of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission Act 2001 (Cth) by applying charges for DCB content to the accounts of customers who had unintentionally purchased DCB content without their knowledge or consent and ordered Optus pay a pecuniary penalty of $10 million and costs.
The ACCC took this action under a delegation of power from ASIC.
The ACCC has a standing delegation of certain ASIC powers and functions for the purposes of investigation and commencement and conduct of any proceedings in relation to matters involving financial products and services provided as part of, or in connection with, the supply or possible supply of telecommunications services.
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