Optus has been slapped with an injunction and faces hefty fines after being found of deceptive advertising by the Federal Court yesterday.
In a case brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Optus was found guilty of misleading advertising in regards to its 'Think Bigger' and 'Supersonic' broadband Internet plans.
The 'Think Bigger' and 'Supersonic' broadband plans included on- and off-peak data allowances but Justice Perram found that Optus had misled its customers by not clarifying that speeds would be shaped to 64Kbps if their peak data allowance had been exceeded.
In his ruling, Justice Perram stated that "the contravention here is a serious one and the public should be protected from any further repetition of it," and prohibited Optus from launching similar advertising campaigns in the next three years. Optus was also ordered to pay all of the ACCC's court costs to date, with a ruling on further penalties and corrective advertising to be handed down on Friday.
Optus has not been forced to remove any of their advertisements but any future campaigns must comply with the injunction handed down by Justice Perram.
Optus maintained that its advertisements for the 'Think Bigger' and 'Supersonic' broadband plans were not misleading as customers were properly informed by call centres or the Web site when they signed up to a plan.
ACCC chairperson Graeme Samuels said in a statement that Optus had broken the law and could not rely on call centres to clarify misleading advertising. "Consumers and the ACCC are, frankly, tired of telcos using complex, confusing and deceptive advertising to fool consumers," he said.
Samuels also issued a warning to other telcos in regards to misleading advertising. "This should serve as yet another reminder, that if these companies don't clean up their act, the ACCC will be here to take you to task, and you can expect to be hit with the full force of the law."
In a response to the verdict, a spokesperson for Optus said, "It is never our intention to mislead our customers and we have corrected the advertising in question to make it clearer. We will continue to work with our customers to ensure they are completely satisfied with Optus."