Optus launches new data donation scheme

Telco debuts new scheme to help promote digital inclusion and separately is ordered to pay a second fine for misleading NBN claims following action by ACCC

Optus has launched a new digital inclusion initiative, Donate Your Data, with the aim of helping bridge the digital divide for young Australians living in poverty. 

Launching initially with charity partners, the Smith Family and the KARI Foundation, Optus will be providing free Optus SIM cards to young Australians in need, equipping them with unlimited national standard talk and text and 10GB data for use locally, which will be topped up with extra data donated by Optus customers. Eligible post-paid and pre-paid mobile customers can now donate their data to young Australians who need it most via the telco's mobile app.

“For many of us, data is something we take for granted. However, for some young Australians accessing the internet and staying connected with the world around them is a real challenge. This entails everything from studying through to searching for jobs, watching videos or even doing a quick internet search,” said Optus deputy CEO, Kelly Bayer Rosmarin.

Optus said the charity partnership is about enabling connectivity to vulnerable members of the community, such as includes young people in need, those experiencing homelessness, people facing domestic violence, and people living in disadvantage and seeking a job.

“This project makes it incredibly simple for eligible Optus customers to make a real difference and with just a simple tap have the opportunity to contribute to the future of Australians in need,”  Bayer Rosmarin said.

Optus is looking to expand the program by working with other organisations to bridge the digital divide. Optus Postpaid and Prepaid Mobile customers on eligible plans can start donating data today via the My Optus App. It is expected more than 13,000 students in the Smith Family’s Learning for Life program and more across the KARI Foundation will benefit from the initiative.

YouTube’s star maths teacher, Eddie Woo of Wootube, is an ambassador for the program. “Throughout my career, I have seen the big difference the internet can make to a child’s education. So, when I was asked to be part of a program that would donate data to kids in need, I was stoked to be involved,” he stated.

The announcement came as Optus was ordered to pay a $6.4 million fine by the Federal Court for misleading NBN disconnection claims, following proceedings brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). It stems from a customer announcement in May 2018 when Optus emailed 138,988 of its mobile customers claiming their existing home broadband services, provided by competitors, would be “disconnected very soon” and encouraged them to change to Optus NBN broadband to “make the switch, before it's too late”.

The ACCC noted it’s the second time in two years Optus has been ordered to pay significant penalties for misleading consumers about the need to acquire NBN services, although it’s not the only telco to have been subject to ACCC action regarding statements to customers about migrating to the NBN. TPG was also in court last year accused of misleading consumer conduct relating to NBN services that was allegedly in breach of Australian Consumer Law.

ACCC chair, Rod Sims, said the latest penalty should serve as a warning to all other telcos against misleading consumers about their NBN choices.

“The industry should be helping consumers during this process, not providing them with misleading information. We are continuing to watch this area closely,” Sims stated.

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