The ACCC has issued six subsidiaries of Nine Entertainment Co with paid penalties for alleged charging of subscribers and advertisers excessive payment surcharges.
They issues 12 infringement notices, and Nine has paid penalties to the sum of $159,840.
The six subsidiaries of Nine involved were Fairfax Media Management Pty Ltd (relating to subscription services), Nine Radio Operations Pty Ltd (relating to radio advertising services), Fairfax Media Publications Pty Ltd (relating to the publication of advertising), and NBN Pty Ltd, Nine Digital Pty Ltd and Nine Network Australia Pty Ltd (in relation to TV and digital advertising services).
According to the ACCC, their concerns arose in December 2018 after the Nine/Fairfax merger. They say that “most consumer and advertiser transactions processed by Nine in which a payment surcharge was applied involved an excessive payment surcharge.”
“Nine applied payment surcharges to digital and home delivery subscription services as well as radio, publishing, TV and digital advertising.”
Nine denies any intentional wrongdoing. The error affected a limited number of advertising clients, and subscribers to the mastheads.
The infringement notice particularly relates to MasterCard and VISA debit and credit payments made between August and December 2020. Essentially, the ACCC alleges that the stated surcharges ranged from 0.9 to 1.55 per cent, but the actual cost by Nine was between 0.09 and 0.84 per cent.
The average excess surchage was $1.92.
B&T understand that the newspaper surcharge was the result of an unintentional updating error in subscription calculation, while advertising customers were accidentally overcharged for debit and credit surchage.
B&T also understands that Nine and the ACCC have discussed correcting the errors, and agreed upon a number of steps, including the removal of some surcharges for advertising invoices and subscription customers, and a reduction in surcharge of others.
There will also be compensation for customers who were accidentally overcharged, either through a cash adjustment or a sunscription extension. Advertising customers are entitled to a refund if they have been over-surcharged.
The ACCC says that Nine has “amended its paymnet surcharges to comply with the RBA standard on excessive payment surcharges.”
A Nine spokesperson said, “we accept the findings of the ACCC in this matter and have paid the fine. The surcharge overcharge was unintentional, it was not an error which affected all of Nine (for example, Stan and Future Women were not affected) and we have taken steps to credit those subscribers/advertisers impacted. We have also reviewed our processes to ensure the error is not repeated.”
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