In ACCC v TPG Internet Pty Ltd  FCA 1677 (11 October 2019), the Federal Court of Australia (“Federal Court”) has dismissed a case brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (“ACCC”) against TPG Internet Pty Ltd (“TPG”).
The Federal Court found that representations made by TPG about prepayments customers had to make in its internet, home telephone and mobile plans were not false or misleading, and that a term in its contracts which allowed TPG to keep prepaid funds when customers exited their plans, was not unfair.
As outlined in an
"From 2013 some of TPG’s personal mobile, home telephone and internet plans required customers to make a “prepayment” of at least $20 to cover potential usage outside what is included in their plans, such as excess data usage and phone calls to “1300” numbers.
When a customer’s prepaid balance falls to below $10, TPG directly debits customers so that the amount will return the prepayment to $20. On cancellation of a customer’s plan, they are unable to use the full amount of the prepayment. As a result, TPG retains at least $10 of the prepayment when a customer cancels their plan."
TPG successfully contested that it had told consumers in its Terms and Conditions that the money would not come back, arguing that the term “prepayment” was not mutually exclusive of ultimate forfeiture, disputing the ACCC’s interpretation.
that the $20 non-refundable charge was a legitimate financial impost due to the propensity of some consumers to walk away from smaller debts that were more expensive to collect than write off, with O’Callaghan J commenting at paras [111-112]:
O'Callaghan J was not convinced by arguments put forward by the ACCC, noting at para :
Justice O'Callaghan ordered that the proceedings be dismissed and that the ACCC pay TPG's legal costs.
In the, ACCC Chair Rod Sims said of the Federal Court's decision:
Mr Sims said “[we] will continue to take cases against telco businesses that we consider are making misleading claims about their services.” The ACCC is “carefully considering the judgment”.
In a, a spokesperson said:
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Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v TPG Internet Pty Ltd  FCA 1677 (11 October 2019)
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