'Put the money back so I can pay my landlord': customers to Telstra's Belong

A suspected glitch has overcharged customers, prompting them to swarm the internet provider's Facebook page.

Telstra-backed internet provider Belong has left customers fuming by debiting three times the value of their monthly bill, leaving some unable to cover expenses like rent.

Belong, which delivers ADSL and NBN internet to 150,000 Australians as a subsidiary of Telstra, has been inundated on its Facebook page by customers who have incorrectly had hundreds debited from their accounts, spent more than an hour waiting to speak to representatives and are being told refunds could take more than a week.

"Why doesn't your customer support phone number work?" wrote Rose Darling on the Belong Facebook page.

"I'd like to ask you why you've taken $180 out of my bank account & told me 'great news, your account is in credit!'

"Pretty sure this is dodgy as."

Others derided the company, not only for the incorrect debits, but for the inopportune timing.

"Not happy belong. You've charged my account twice and have taken a portion of my rent money, that is due to be paid today as well," wrote Kat Tulloch‎. "Please put the money back into my account so I can pay my landlord."

Some have been told it will take several business days to get their money refunded, at a time when they intended to buy gifts for Christmas.

"Charged 3 times for a month and to be told after half an hour on the phone that I'll see the refund in 7-10 business days," wrote customer Jonathyn King.

"This isn't good enough...Not everyone can afford to be out of pocket $130 and wait over a week to get it refunded."

Posts were accompanied with screenshots of triple debits from bank accounts, call timers running past the hour mark and messages from Belong congratulating them for having accounts in credit.

Some of the posts contained profanity directed at the company.

Customers are claiming Belong's "phone lines are down" and that the online chat function of Facebook "is not working either".

It is not known how many of its 150,000 customers are affected and what caused accounts to be overdrawn. The issue continues to develop at the time of writing.

A company spokesperson told CHOICE the issue was caused by a "system error" that caused some of its customers to be overcharged.

"We are currently contacting impacted customers and are working to refund any overpayments as quickly as possible," he says. "We apologise for the inconvenience this has caused our customers."

What should customers do?

The affected customers should seek redress from Belong, says Stefanie Menezes, a spokesperson at CHOICE.

"Having a company unexpectedly or unfairly take a direct debit from your account can make a big impact. It means people can miss payments for other bills or face financial stress," she says.

"Anyone who has had money unexpectedly ripped out of their account should complain. If they can't get through to the Belong customer service, then they have the right to go through to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman."

Belong has not yet responded publicly to the myriad of complaints posted on its social networks. Customers continue to post complaints.

Update, 2.17pm: We have updated this article to include a comment from Belong.