Looks like Optus might finally be in the firing line for this woeful part of its business model.
Currently only Telstra being taken to court but can't imaging the biggest facilitator of this scam will be let off the hook. Explains the sudden efforts to try curb the most blatent scammers out there.
Sadly the potential penalty seems capped at $10 million it seems and no doubt Optus will have easily taken in ten times that every year or two.
Who says crime doesn't pay?
Optus would be sensitive to a 10m fine, because its profits are dipping badly. Not sure why either, because the explanations in their statements make no sense. EPL is about 1/4 of their profits gone.
Telstra just shutting down third party
"Commissions on premium billing services charged to 2.7 million mobile numbers earned Telstra $61.7 million in net revenue up to October 2017. It has been operating the premium billing service since July 2013" Optus is obviously the smaller of the 2 companies but if Telstra made $60m+ Optus will definitely have made over $10m.
I'm still baffled that it took the ACCC this long but also at the maximum possible fine. $60m profit and you cop $10m fine, would you not keep going with these practices if that was the sort of money you knew you could make?
I don't think Telstra ever bought into this service to the extent Optus did. In its hey day Optus actually owned over half of the premium services being offered. Telstra seems a late starter in 2013. I suspect Optus has made much more than
I believe the ACCC did act to regulate the scam 2010ish back when the amounts involved easily got in to the $100s and $1000's. Back then the scammers just refused any refunds. ACCC action stopped that but it morphed in to the low level grifting it is today. The switch to refunding any money immeadiately to complainers largely neutered ACCC interest. I really didn't expect to see this long over due action.
What gets me though is the weasel words She said :
a “large proportion” of customers were happy with the service - so what is a large proportion 10%? 20%? And how is "happy" defined? - that the customer didn't notice the scam and/or didn't make an official complaint and/or managed to get a refund after spending over and hour of their time?
but they received a “number of complaints” - how many?
and acknowledged they could have improved their services faster. - Well its been over a decade for Optus so not sure why Telstra could be expected to make the Premium SMS service opt in if Optus still can't. (That's sarcacm btw)
Pay an exec to issue a lame mea culpa. A few million to the lawyers. Refund $10 million and pocket the rest. Pay Day.
Even now that the ACCC are bringing action, Telstra has had the integrity to at least shut down the scam completely. Optus seem to only be sorry that the rort got so big as to be finally noticed and are still accepting many scam payments from the smaller scammers.
Isn't it time Optus (the second biggest Telco in the nation) started doing right by their customers?
Vicky Brady, the woman doing the weasel words, came from Optus in 1997-2015.
Actually the quote in your article was wrong.
"A large proportion of customers who decided to subscribe to a service were happy with it, however the number of complaints received over time shows there were issues with the [premium direct billing] service that needed to be addressed.
Possibly even less meaningful than the [The Age] paraphrased statement i quoted.
A large proportion That could be as low as 10% of the whole and still be correct (i.e. 90% we're unhappy)
who decided to subscribe - What does that mean? Is she refering to the subset that knowingly joined a premium SMS service?
number of complaints - lets keep that vague. as an aside recent NBN events have shown the major Telcos simply not keeping any records of complaints about speeds etc. so when the ACCC came knocking they just said "We dunno"
over time - ditto, but we're talking years of very angry customer feed back on this issue.
Anyway, I guess we can wait and see what will come of the ACCC's actions.
Probably legal but functionally immoral would be the phrase I would use for third party billing (TPB).
It will interesting if OPTUS is sent to the naughty corner by the ACCC for their TPB activities. What I would like to see is the TELCOs being made to confirm the total amount billed for TPB and fined 25% of that amount. They should then given the responsibility of contacting every subscriber affected and repaying any monies owed by individual cheque. It should not be the resposibility of the individual subscribers to make a claim. This would be the obverse of the way in which the TPB was effected. Any money that cannot be returned should be used to supplement the activities of the TIO.
I am a victim of this questionable business practice and am in the process of reclaiming just over a hundred dollars. It is the thought that this money probably went to pay the bonuses of the people who initiated the policy that really grips my bowel, rather than the actual money lost.
The forum has produced an interesting insight into the numbers of people affected but more importantly into the nature of the OPTUS response. The response is a classic divide and rule ploy. They have treated each complaint as an individual issue rather than a systemic problem with the business model.. Each complainant is invited to isolate themselves from the public forum and interact via PM. Each complainant is made to feel alone.
OPTUS has the same morality as most utilities. It is based on the premise that the customer must choose from a small pool of utility providers for what are in essence essential services. Poor customer service across an industry means there is little benefit to an individual by changing their provider. This then informs the level of customer service the utiliy deigns to support. The utilities also appreciate the circular nature of the churn of customers. If, for whatever reason, OPTUS lose 1000 customers to TELCOs X, Y or Z, it is likely that they will gain a similar number of customers from said TELCOs due to their respective shortcomings. Loss of you as an individual customer means nothing
Can you imagine the response of OPTUS if every subscriber with an active complaint visited an OPTUS shop or office on the last friday of every month in order to register their complaint or demand an update. I suspect that a resolution would be found pdq,
If we continue to accept the utilities' business practices and customer service systems as individuals, the level of both will diminish. Change for the better may be achieved by collective action.