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Optus fined $10m for misleading customers

Telecom Optus has been slapped with a $10 million fine over its treatment of customers who unknowingly purchased games, ringtones and other digital content through its third-party billing service.

The penalty, handed down by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, is one of the highest imposed by the regulator and equals the fine paid by rival Telstra for similar conduct.

Optus admitted it had known from at least April 2014 that many customers were being billed through its direct carrier billing (DCB) service for content they had unknowingly or mistakenly signed up for, and earned a commission on items sold through the DCB.

The telecom also noted that it hadn’t properly informed customers that they would be charged directly by Optus for the service, and that it was set as default on their accounts.

“In many cases, Optus customers had no idea they were buying anything, and certainly did not need or want the content for which they were being charged,” ACCC chair Rob Sims said.

“Optus failed to take appropriate action, choosing instead to continue to charge customers and collect commissions on these sales, even after numerous complaints.”

Over 600,000 enquiries about the service were sent to Optus, and the business would direct enquiring customers to third parties in order to ask for refunds.

So far, Optus has refunded approximately 240,000 customers the equivalent of about $8 million, while third party providers have provided a further $13 million.

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