Friday, 31 July 2020 05:21

ACCC loses pre-payment case appeal against TPG

ACCC loses pre-payment case appeal against TPG Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

The Australian consumer watchdog has lost an appeal against a pre-payment scheme being used by telecommunications provider TPG Telecom, with the Full Federal Court finding for the company on Thursday.

The pre-paid plans in question required customers to pay at least $20 ahead of taking a plan for potential use of services which were not included in the plan.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission had taken TPG to court, alleging that from March 2013, the company had indulged in false and misleading representations about the pre-payments.

The "pre-payment" was automatically topped-up to the original amount, usually $20, when the pre-paid balance fell below $10. This "pre-payment" was non-refundable even when a customer cancelled their plan, meaning TPG almost always retained at least $10.

The Federal Court decided the case in favour of TPG in November last year, leading to an appeal by the ACCC.

The ACCC’s argument was that by representing that this was a "pre-payment", consumers were misled into thinking they could use all the money they had pre-paid for out-of-plan services, when this was not usually possible.

But the Full Federal Court held that TPG’s use of the word "pre-payment" did not convey anything about the way in which the firm would hold and apply the pre-payment, particularly at the end of the plan.

“We took this case and appealed the previous decision because we considered that TPG was misleading consumers by not adequately disclosing the details about the mandatory pre-payment,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.

“Consumer awareness of important terms should not be expected where they are contained in the fine print of a long and detailed contract or, in the case of online contracts, after multiple click-throughs.

“We remain concerned that TPG’s customers were not able to use up their full pre-payment, or get a refund for any unused funds.”

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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