ONE of Australia's biggest internet providers threatened to cut off broadband services to more than 20,000 customers before they were legally allowed to do so as part of the transition to the National Broadband Network, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission claimed today.
The ACCC revealed it would make the claim against Optus in Federal Court following complaints some customers were given as little as 30 days to move to the NBN.
Australian broadband users typically have 18 months to transfer to the NBN after their home is classified "ready for service," though an Optus spokesman said the company had to allow just 90 days after the classification was made.
In addition, the ACCC claimed Optus did follow through and cut off some HFC broadband connections before it was allowed to do so, and informed some customers they could only use Optus for their NBN services rather than choosing a different provider.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the alleged behaviour was particularly concerning, as consumers were already confused about moving to the NBN, and Optus "received a significant financial payment from NBN Co for each customer that moved from its cable network to the NBN".
"We are also concerned that Optus cut off some of its customers' internet services when it had no contractual right to do so," he said.
"Telephone and internet are essential utilities and it is unacceptable for Optus to treat its customers this way."
An Optus spokeswoman said the ACCC legal action related to the company's older processes which had since been changed.
"We provided some customers with insufficient notice of their options to migrate. As a result, some customers were disconnected before they migrated to the NBN," she said.
"Optus aims for a seamless experience for customers transitioning to NBN. We acknowledge that this process did not deliver on our intent to provide an excellent migration experience."
The Federal Court action came just days after Optus, Australia's third largest NBN service provider, was forced to compensate more than 8700 of its NBN customers for charging them to access download speeds their connection could not possibly deliver.
Overcharged Optus customers will be offered refunds, discounted plans, and the option to exit their contract without fees.
Telstra was forced into a similar backdown in November, when it offered compensation to more than 42,000 NBN customers.
Mr Sims said the ACCC would be "keeping a close eye on this sector" to ensure internet providers were not misleading customers.