ISP Bytecard has been fined $75,000 in civil penalties and its director, Brian Morris, has been fined $37,000 by the Federal Court for breaching telecommunications acts.
The Canberra-based company was found to be in breach of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) scheme, the Telecommunications Act and the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act.
Bytecard has been ordered to implement a compliance program and Morris is required to attend a compliance seminar with respect to TIO scheme obligations.
Bytecard and Morris are also responsible for paying for ACMA costs.
“The provision of telecommunications services is a very important feature of modern society. There are many organisations involved in the provision of those services at various levels,” Justice Foster said.
“The need for those organisations which deal directly with the public to behave in a manner which complies with relevant statutory provisions, the terms of their contracts and appropriate professional standards is obvious.”
The company failed to comply with TIO determinations and Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) directions five times between 2006 and 2011, when a TIO determination directed Bytecard to either refund money to or waive the debts of four customers.
In November 2011 ACMA warned, “If Bytecard persists in its failure to comply, the ACMA can approach the Federal Court seeking orders requiring it to do so, as well as civil penalties.”
The refunds were only repaid to the customers after ACMA began Federal Court proceedings last year.
ACMA initially issued a warning to the company in March 2009 for contravening the TIO scheme by failing to co-operate with ACMA on two continuing matters, with Bytecard failing to comply with the scheme voluntarily.
ACMA has welcomed the penalties given down by the Federal Court.
“Justice Foster’s decision serves as a reminder to telecommunications service providers of whatever business model and wherever they sit in the value chain that compliance with the TIO scheme is not negotiable,” Chris Chapman, ACMA’s chairman, said in a statement.
“ACMA will take regulatory action when required against non-compliant telecommunications companies.”
Bytecard has traded as NetSpeed Internet Communications and Leading Edge Internet.
Morris, who founded NetSpeed in 1991, is a manager at the company and announced on Whirlpool that it had acquired Apex Telecoms and the TransACT and dial-in subscriber bases of CyberOne Internet in September last year.
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