The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has welcomed the Federal Court decision to award $75,000 in civil penalties against Canberra-based internet service provider Bytecard, and $37,500 against its director Brian Morris.
The Court found that Bytecard and Morris had breached the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) scheme, the Telecommunications Act and the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act. On five occasions between 2006 and 2011, Bytecard failed to comply with TIO determinations and ACMA directions. Funds were repaid to customers only after the ACMA commenced Federal Court proceedings last year.
Justice Foster has ordered Bytecard to implement a compliance program, and for Morris to attend a compliance seminar on TIO scheme obligations. Bytecard and Morris are also required to pay the ACMA’s costs. He stated that the contraventions were very serious. “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. 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.”
ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman, said Justice Foster’s decision serves as a reminder to telecommunications service providers. “Whatever business model and wherever they sit in the value chain, compliance with the TIO scheme is not negotiable,” he said. “ACMA commenced proceedings against Bytecard and its director in line with the undertaking it gave as part of our Reconnecting the Customer public inquiry that ACMA will take regulatory action when required against non-compliant telecommunications companies.”
The TIO scheme offers a free alternative dispute resolution service to residential and small business customers of all Australian phone and internet service providers.