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Telstra Fined $50 Million For Using 'Unconscionable' Tactics With Aboriginal Customers

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Telstra Fined $50 Million For Using 'Unconscionable' Tactics With Aboriginal Customers

Telstra has agreed to pay a $50 million for exploiting Aboriginal customers.

The telco was dealt the massive punishment following a large investigation into the company's practices.

The court heard five Telstra-branded stores in the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia signed up 108 Indigenous consumers between 2016 to 2018.

Telstra was the only mobile provider in these areas and English was the customer's second or third language.

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Employees were coached on how to manipulate credit assessments and encourage these customers to sign up to phone plans they couldn't afford.

Despite becoming 'progressively aware of the issues', the Federal Court was told the practice continued and some customers had to wait more than a year before their debt was waived.

After an 18-month investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Telstra has reached a settlement.

It's now up to the Federal Court to determine whether the $50 million fine is appropriate.

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It could become the second-highest ever fine imposed under Australian consumer law, according to the ABC.

As a result of the findings, Reconciliation Australia has revoked the status of Telstra as a partner of the Reconciliation Action Plan.

Telstra CEO Andrew Penn says the allegations that were revealed in court were shocking.

"I'm deeply and personally disappointed that we have let Indigenous Australians down," he said. "It is just not okay. These communities need to know that they can trust us.

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"And it's heartbreaking to learn that when you think you're helping. In fact, the exact opposite is happening," he said.

"We should have been more attuned. We should have listened harder to what was happening. Because we could have picked this up earlier."

He added: "I want to stress that Telstra and myself personally are 100 per cent committed to reconciliation because it acknowledges and begins to address profound historical wrongs.

"I am personally saddened by what has happened. It does not represent who we are. It does not represent who I am.

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"What is important is to rebuild the trust of the Indigenous community.

"That means spending time listening to communities and realising that words are easy, but living up to them is a daily test."

Staff were trained on how to manipulate credit assessments to sign dozens of customers up to plans they couldn't afford.

To support the fight against racial injustice visit ladbible.com/unheard

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: Australia

Stewart Perrie
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