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10,000 Aussies receive $231 refunds after Telstra breach

Lucy Dean
·2-min read
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 24:  A Testra logo seen on a retail space in Sydney's CBD on July 24, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. Telstra's Global Services Devision will be moving 463 existing Telstra roles and 208 contractor jobs to India. Telstra staff were officially informed of the decision yesterday afternoon.  (Photo by James Alcock/Getty Images)
Telstra will issue 10,000 refunds. (Photo by James Alcock/Getty Images)

Past and present Telstra customers are entitled to refunds after the telecommunications titan was found to have overcharged customers by $2.5 million.

Those customers had been overcharged $231 on average between February 2008 and February 2020.

Most of the incorrect fees came when customers were pushed onto interim mobile phone products due to delays in repairing or connecting Telstra landlines.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) on Thursday said Telstra needed to comply with federal billing accuracy laws after investigators uncovered 10,000 customers who had been overcharged.

“If telcos are relying on IT systems to meet their regulatory obligations then they must have appropriate testing and assurance processes in place to ensure compliance,” ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said.

“For Telstra to allow an issue like this to go unnoticed for such a long time and impact so many customers, is simply unacceptable.”

She said customers should not expect to pay more for interim services than their normal plans, and that the errors were an obvious breach of the consumer protections code.

Telstra said the billing error was the result of IT mistakes when it launched a new customer database in 2008.

“Getting something as important as billing wrong isn’t acceptable and we apologise to our customers,” a spokesman said. Telstra self-reported the error.

“Since we discovered the mistake we have been working to refund customers and change our processes so this can’t happen again.”

$250,000 warning for Telstra

ACMA noted that Telstra began issuing refunds as soon as it knew about the issue, and fixed the issue.

However, ACMA warned that Telstra would face a $250,000 fine if it broke the rules again.

“Overcharging can potentially lead to financial difficulties for affected customers which is why the ACMA considers accuracy in billing practices to be an important consumer protection,” O’Loughlin said.