Telstra Warned After Overcharging Customers for Data Use Abroad

The telecommunications and media company, Telstra, has been officially warned by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). The communications watchdog has warned Telstra after an investigation revealed that the communications giant has been overcharging customers because of inaccurate international data roaming usage.

Telstra issued incorrect invoices between 2005 and 2012, affecting over 260,000 of their current and former customers. It is thought that the overcharging of customers generated an extra $AU30 million for the company.

Telstra have firmly placed the blame on the data clearing house that sends them information on how their customers have used data abroad. The problem occurred because the data clearing house recorded single data usage sessions as multiple session which resulted in the customer incurring a 50c flagfall charge for each session.

After the investigation was completed by the ACMA, it was concluded that Telstra can only hold the data clearing house responsible for up until early 2009 after they received their first official complaint from a customer about being overcharged. The ACMA concluded that if the complaint was properly investigated, it would have resulted in Telstra realising that there were problems with the information that the data clearing house was sending them. As this didn’t happen, Telstra breached the industry’s consumer protection code.

The ACMA stated, “It is the ACMA’s view that had Telstra investigated any of these three complaints, it would have discovered that the customers in question had been overcharged because of flaws in the data provided by the clearing house and could then have taken steps to prevent any further related overcharging.”

Telstra finally discovered the problem in April 2012 and has since stopped penalising its customers with a flagfall charge for international data roaming. Telstra are currently in the process of refunding its affected customers.

A statement that was released by Telstra confirmed that they are doing what they can to make sure something similar doesn’t happen again and that they accept the findings of the ACMA investigation.

Telstra stated, “Once we identified it we put in place immediate steps to prevent it happening again. We also proactively notified the ACMA and began a process to fully refund customers and to apologise for this happening in the first place. We have permanently removed the charge in question and we accept this finding from ACMA.”

The chief of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, Teresa Corbin praised Telstra’s approach and accountability to the whole situation but did state that some customers who have switched providers may miss out on some compensation.

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