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SMS notification setting lands Telstra in hot water

SMS notification setting lands Telstra in hot water

The issue arose because Telstra’s systems were set to send SMS notifications rather than email

Credit: Dreamstime

Telstra has copped a formal warning by the telco regulator for failing to send data usage email notifications to more than 150,000 mobile broadband customers.

According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the issue arose because Telstra’s systems were set to send SMS notifications, which were unable to be received by broadband customers not connected with a mobile phone account.

The regulator said that the telco’s failure to send notices to its customers via email could have led to people having to pay unexpected excess usage charges.

“Usage notifications give people due warning that they may be about to incur additional charges for their broadband services,” ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said.

“The [Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code] requires suppliers to send notifications within 48 hours of customers reaching specified data usage quotas on post-paid internet plans.

“Consumers have a right to make informed decisions about their broadband use, and by failing to send these notifications in the correct format people have had to pay excess usage charges without sufficient warning,” she said.

It is understood that Telstra self-reported the issue to the ACMA, with the telco disclosing that, between September 2013 and May 2019, it breached its obligations under the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code to send usage notifications via email.

According to the regulator, Telstra has automatically refunded all customers who lodged a complaint about excess usage over the relevant period or incurred an excess usage charge of $5 or less. 

Moreover, Telstra has also written to all other affected customers who can claim a refund via an online form.

O’Loughlin said in a statement that any further breaches of the code would likely result in more serious regulatory action, and encouraged current or former Telstra mobile broadband customers to contact Telstra for a refund if they believe they incurred excess usage charges as a result of not receiving a usage notification.

“The ACMA has asked Telstra to report regularly on its progress of refunding affected customers until all customers have been reimbursed,” O’Loughlin added.

News of the formal warning comes just a day after the regulator handed iiNet a dressing down after a customer’s NBN migration left them without internet for more than three weeks.

As a result, iiNet was directed to conduct an independent audit of its systems. ACMA warned the telco that failure to do so may result in court proceedings and potential penalties of up to $10 million.

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