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 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.”