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$100,000 fine for 'abusive' NetSpeed

Brian Morris of NetSpeed.

Brian Morris of NetSpeed. Photo: LinkedIN/Brian Morris

A Canberra internet entrepreneur and the company he founded have been ordered to pay more than $100,000 in fines by the Federal Court.

The court found Bytecard - better known by its trading name NetSpeed - and company director Brian Andrew Morris breached their obligations as a telecommunications provider between 2006 and 2011.

The five breaches related to Bytecard's failure to repay aggrieved customers a total of $2819.99 as directed by the industry watchdogs.

ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman.

ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman. Photo: Supplied

The funds were reimbursed only after the Australian Communications and Media Authority began Federal Court proceedings last year.

Justice Lindsay Foster slapped Bytecard with a pecuniary penalty of $75,000.

Mr Morris was ordered to pay $37,500 and the Canberra company must also pay costs.

But the penalty was lower than that originally sought by ACMA.

Counsel for the authority submitted that Bytecard should pay $90,000 and Mr Morris should be penalised $45,000.

Justice Foster also ordered Bytecard to implement a compliance program and Mr Morris must attend a seminar with respect to his obligations.

In passing judgment, Justice Foster wrote that the contraventions were very serious.

''The provision of telecommunications services is a very important feature of modern society,'' Justice Foster said

''There are many organisations involved in the provision of those services at various levels. The need for those organisations which deal directly with the public to behave in a manner which complies with relevant statutory provisions, the terms of their contracts and appropriate professional standards is obvious.''

The judge noted that while each of the breaches produced only a minor financial loss for each customer, there had been aggravating circumstances.

''Instead of approaching those complaints in an appropriate fashion, Bytecard and Mr Morris set upon a course of action which can only be described as a deliberate and flagrant non-compliance with Bytecard's business and statutory obligations, overlain … with disrespectful and abusive language,'' the judge wrote.

Justice Foster agreed with ACMA's submissions that the repeatedly abusive approach adopted by Mr Morris demonstrated that the ''respondents' contravening behaviour was persistent, deliberate, willful and contumelious''.

The judge said the penalty should send a strong message of deterrence to other telcos.

ACMA chairman Chris Chapman welcomed the decision.

Mr Chapman said the judgment was a reminder to telecommunication providers, no matter how big or small, that compliance was not negotiable.

''The ACMA commenced proceedings against Bytecard and its director in line with the undertaking it gave as part of the ACMA's Reconnecting the Customer public inquiry that the ACMA will take regulatory action when required against non-compliant telecommunications companies,'' Mr Chapman said.

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