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Consumer watchdog sues telcos over 'misleading' NBN speeds

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is suing Australia’s three biggest internet service providers, accusing them of misleading hundreds of thousands of consumers over NBN maximum speeds.

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The consumer watchdog says it has instituted separate Federal Court proceedings against Telstra, Optus and TPG, alleging they breached Australian consumer law by making false or misleading representations in promotions of some 50Mbps and 100Mbps NBN plans.

The ACCC says the companies told some consumers on fibre to the node connections that their lines were underperforming on stated maximum speeds and offered them remedies, but failed to do so for many customers.

Telstra, Optus and TPG also allegedly wrongly accepted payments from some customers when they were not provided with the promised speeds.

The ACCC says the three companies also promised refunds if the speeds consumers were paying for could not be met within a specific or reasonable timeframe.

“Instead, we allege, they failed to do these things, and as a result many consumers paid more for their NBN plans than they needed to,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said in a statement on Monday.

“Collectively, hundreds of thousands of consumers were allegedly misled by these three big internet providers, Telstra, Optus and TPG, which accepted payments for NBN speeds they could not provide.”

Sims said the companies had earlier given undertakings to the ACCC to provide remedies to consumers who purchased NBN plans with speeds that couldn’t be delivered.

“We are very disappointed that these companies do not seem to have taken seriously the undertakings they gave to the ACCC,” he said.

He added that the companies have promised to compensate consumers before the court case is finalised. But the ACCC is still seeking a range of orders including pecuniary penalties and compliance programs.

The ACCC investigation was prompted both by Telstra self-reporting to the ACCC and its own broadband measuring reports finding consumers weren’t receiving speeds they were paying for.

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