Uh-oh. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have today announced it has commenced proceedings against Telstra after the telco misled consumers and charged them for content they didn't even know they'd purchased. Now, more than 100,000 Telstra customers are eligible for a refund - here's how you can get it.
Telstra's Premium Direct Billing (PDB) service, which began operation in 2013, allows customers to purchase digital content and services from third-party developers who don't use the standard Google Play or App Stores. If you buy something outside these stores, the cost is then added to your Telstra mobile account bill and you pay it off as you would your prepaid or postpaid plan.
While that sounds all well and good, Telstra did not make customers aware that the system had been set to default on customers mobile accounts. This means that customers could access content via the PDB service without ever authorising any purchases for that content. Instead, it would just be applied to the next bill. Without the safeguards in place, customers who were using PDB were able to rack up bigger bills, without ever having the intention of doing so.
In 2015 and 2016, customers began to dispute the charges, which brought these issues to light. It is possible that tens of thousands of customers were affected and that number could even reach upward of 100,000. Last August, the PDB service was suspended.
For Telstra, this could mean a $10 million fine, but what about consumers?
If you suspect that you might have been slugged with a bill, through the PDB, that you never intended to buy you should be eligible for a refund.
How can you get that refund?
The first thing Telstra customers should do is check their mobile account. If you can see unauthorised charges have been applied using the PDB service then you should contact Telstra to seek a refund.
The ACCC note that "Telstra has agreed to deal directly with complaints about the PDB service and provide refunds where it is apparent that the customer had signed up to PDB content without their knowledge or consent."
If you have already complained about the charges to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman or to Telstra directly, they are likely to contact and offer you a refund for the charges.
You can call Telstra on 125 111. You may even find some luck using these call centre hacks.
Telstra also have a 24x7 online chat function on their website. You can ask to be transferred to a human operator instead of Codi, Telstra's Virtual Assistant. I am unsure as to how easily you will be able to get a refund here, I just spent about five minutes waiting for the virtual assistant to transfer me to a human operator, so this may not be the most ideal option.
Notably, the buck might not stop there - even if you're not with Telstra, there could be good news on the way if you've been slugged by your provider with some unknown charge. In today's media release, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims also mentioned that other carriers provide similar third-party payment services and that they will "be monitoring complaint levels and will take enforcement action in relation to these carriers if we believe they are breaching the law".