* ACCC alleges Optus misled consumers over NBN shift
* Optus acknowledges ACCC action, “it’s a mistake” (Adds Optus response, context)
By Shriya Ramakrishnan
June 27 (Reuters) - Australia’s competition regulator said on Thursday it has filed a lawsuit against Singapore Telecommunications’ Optus on allegations of misleading consumers over the need to move to state-owned National Broadband Network (NBN).
The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) alleged that Optus, the country’s second-largest telco, had misled consumers via an email by advising them to switch to NBN or risk having their broadband service “disconnected very soon”.
“Optus has apologised to customers who received the mistaken communication and offered a costless exit for those who took out the offer,” said Andrew Sheridan, vice president, Regulatory and Public Affairs, Optus.
However, he did not say whether Optus would defend the suit.
The rollout of NBN, one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Australian history, prompted cut-throat competition in the sector and pressured margins.
NBN replaces copper wires laid by firms across the continent with a fibre-optic system that telcos must pay to access.
Australia’s biggest telecommunications provider Telstra Corp , which had once monopolised the copper system, in May forecast higher restructuring costs and expedited a plan to slash jobs amid pressure on its mainstay fixed-line businesses.
“Moving to the NBN is an important decision for consumers, and it can also be a confusing process,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.
The Federal Court had ordered Optus Internet last year to pay penalties of A$1.5 million ($1.05 million) for making misleading representations to customers about the time period for transition from Optus’ HFC network to NBN.
“The ACCC has had to take action about Optus’ advertising on several previous occasions, and it is concerning that we are again having to take them to court for alleged misleading statements about this issue,” the court said.
$1 = 1.4302 Australian dollars Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru, Additional reporting by Ambar Warrick ; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Sherry Jacob-Phillips