Coding error costs Optus $8.8 million

Optus to refunds customers with interest after SurePage billing mistake

A software coding error that went unnoticed for more than two years resulted in Optus incorrectly billing about 235,000 postpaid mobile consumer and small business customers on its SurePage service, Optus has revealed.

Optus is contacting all affected customers to apologise and provide a full refund with interest. The mea culpa will cost Optus $8.8 million, with more than 175,000 of the affected customers to receive a refund of $50 or less.

Optus said the incorrect billing occurred between July 2011 and September this year. Optus has since fixed the software coding problem, it said.

Optus said it has already informed the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

“Optus apologises to all customers who have been affected by this mistake,” said Optus CEO Kevin Russell. “We have a single-minded focus to make things better for our customers, which means being honest and transparent about our mistakes, fixing them and compensating customers.”

SurePage is an alternative to voicemail that diverts unanswered mobile calls to an operator who converts the message into an SMS for the customer.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) said the refund by Optus is appropriate.

"It's unfortunate that Optus took so long to identify the issue but we are pleased that appropriate compensation measures have now been implemented," an ACCAN spokesman said.

"Consumers who believe they are entitled to a refund but did not receive a letter from Optus should call the telco and if unsatisfied with their response, the TIO."

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