ACMA issues a formal warning to Optus after overcharging customers nearly $9 million

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has issued a formal warning to Optus, after it was revealed 237,500 customers were overcharged a total of nearly $9 million.

An ACMA investigation found the billing errors occurred between November 23, 2008 and September 30, 2012, and related to customers being incorrectly billed for the carrier’s SurePage and SpinVox messaging services.

The initial error took place as the result of an error made by an IT programmer during a product upgrade, with customers incorrectly being charged for the products. The “clean-up” process for the code also failed to detect the error.

While the SurePage product manager became aware of the issue in August 2011, the root cause was not identified until July 2012 and the issue was not permanently fixed until September 30, 2012.

After fixing the error, the carrier reported the incident to ACMA, then hired an independent auditor to identify and reimburse all affected customers.

However, it concedes it failed to accurately bill customers or rectify the issue when it first became aware of the problem.

The carrier has received a formal warning, rather than a more severe penalty, on the grounds it reported itself to ACMA, is otherwise compliant with the law, and took steps in rectifying the issue.

In a statement, ACMA chairman Chris Chapman praises the carrier for moving to limit the harm done to affected customers with its audit program.

“I want to note Optus’s constructive engagement with the ACMA’s investigation. We are now confident that Optus has rectified the billing inaccuracy and is reimbursing with interest all affected customers.”

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