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ACCC: Vodafone To Refund Customers Over Direct Carrier Billing Charges

Australian Competition & Consumer Commission or ACCC announced Tuesday that Vodafone Group Plc (VOD.L,VOD), following an investigation, has admitted to making false or misleading representations about its third-party Direct Carrier Billing or DCB service. The company will now contact and refund impacted consumers.

The company admitted that it likely breached the ASIC Act from at least 2015, by charging consumers for content they had not agreed to buy or had purchased unknowingly. Its billing service charged Vodafone customers for ringtones, games and other digital content provided by third parties. The DCB service was automatically enabled on customers' mobile accounts, and purchases could occur with as little as one or two clicks. The purchases would then be charged on the customers' next Vodafone bill.

The agency noted that the content was marketed and provided by third parties who paid Vodafone commissions for sales to its customers.

Vodafone has given a court enforceable undertaking relating to the service. The company would contact potentially affected customers and offer refunds where appropriate. It will also review any complaints and deal with those customers in good faith.

The company offered a DCB service from at least January 1, 2013 to March 1, 2018. But, it began phasing out DCB subscriptions in mid-2015 following increase in complaints. The company also canceled its arrangements with certain third party providers of digital content.

Vodafone's current DCB service is only available for a limited amount of content, with express customer agreement. This service had not been the subject of complaints to the ACCC.

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