Vodafone to refund customers over 'premium' content billing

16 Juillet, 2019, 12:56 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
  • Vodafone to refund customers over 'premium' content billing

Mobile telco Vodafone has admitted to making false and misleading representations about its third-party direct carrier billing services and will contact and refund impacted customers.

Australia's competition watchdog said https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/vodafone-to-compensate-customers-over-direct-carrier-billing-charges on Tuesday Vodafone HTA.AX VOD.L had admitted that it misled thousands of customers for five years by charging them for digital content they bought unknowingly from the telecom company's third-party billing service.

Direct billing services (DCB) allow third parties to sell digital content like games and ringtones and charge customers directly to their phone bill, often without their knowledge or consent.

Shady companies quickly began abusing the service through such sneaky methods as sending customers unsolicited texts for $10-a-week "premium subscriptions" that could begin with just one or two clicks.

ACCC chair Rod Sims said thousands of customers were hit by the deceptive practices.

A Vodafone spokeswoman said in a statement that the telco apologised to customers who were affected and would be contacting them in the next few months to ensure they knew about the refund program.

Both Telstra and Optus have also been the subjects of ACCC investigations into DCB services.

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In a court-enforceable undertaking Vodafone admits that it did not adequately inform its customers that, by default, they were not required to opt-in to the DCB service. However, customers could still be charged for one-off purchases without any identification up until 1 March 2018.

Vodafone received an increase in complaints about the service during 2014 and 2015.

The DCB service allowed customers to purchase digital content from third party developers such as games, ringtones and apps (but did not include content acquired from the usual app marketplaces like Google Play or the App Store).

The ACCC did not impose a fine on Vodafone.

Vodafone has agreed to look back at customers that complained in the past - to Vodafone, the TIO or to third-parties - and to either issue them refunds or account credits.

Vodafone has agreed to automatically refund customers who lodged a complaint in relation to DCB.

"Until December 2017, Vodafone had a general policy of referring complainants to [third-parties] to resolve their dispute in the first instance", the undertaking states.

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