Optus in Court: Cries foul over ACCC corrective ad requests

The telco resists the ACCC’s requests to run corrective advertising and claims the watchdog has blown the misleading advertising case out of proportion.

Optus has rejected the idea of running corrective advertising stipulated by the Australian Competition and Consumers Commission (ACCC) to make up for its misleading advertising campaigns.

The ACCC took Optus to Court over the telco’s “Supersonic” and “Think Bigger” broadband ad campaigns . The consumer watchdog accused Optus of purporting its broadband plans would deliver fast speeds without properly disclosing a capped download speed of 64Kbps once the monthly download quota is exceeded. This concerns advertisements that appeared on TV, in print and online.

The ACCC called 64kbps “sub-broadband”.

Earlier this week, presiding Judge, Justice Perram, found Optus had engaged in misleading advertising and will be determining whether the telco should initiate corrective advertising and/or pay damages.

The ACCC is seeking an order from the court for Optus to run its new TV ads attached with 20 second rolling screenshot with writing that details Optus’ conviction of misleading advertising.

Optus barrister, Steven Finch, claimed the ACCC’s request requires the telco engage in “overblown and unnecessary self-flagellation”. The barrister argued Optus had not received any complaints relating to customers being deceived by the misleading advertisements.

“The exercise itself seeks to grandstand and punish rather than correct,” Finch said.

The commercial wouldn’t specifically target customers influenced by the misleading ads in the first place, Finch claimed.

Optus is seeking for no corrective TV commercials at all and claimed the ads would only perpetuate confusion.

It also disputed the ACCC request to run corrective advertisements in print. Finch claimed the watchdog was “divorced from reality” and its demands were considered excessive.

Finch said the ACCC wants Optus to run corrective ads in print that exceeded the frequency of the original ad run itself. The ACCC acknowledged it did not know this before it submitted its request and has obliged to review this aspect.

On top of TV and print, the ACCC wanted Optus to display a pop-up notice on all websites controlled by the telco regardless of whether or not a webpage pertains to broadband plans. Again, Optus argued the ads would target people even if they were not impacted by the misleading ads. “We all know how annoying pop-ups are,” Finch said. “There should be no corrective advertising on the website.”

Instead, the company wants to put a small breakout box with clear information on capped speeds on the websites related to the broadband plans in question.

Optus proposed it should only sending out A4 page notices out to customers that have signed up on broadband plans during the period of the “Supersonic” and “Think Bigger” ad campaigns and offer them a chance to get out of their contracts if they felt they were mislead in anyway.

Justice Perram has yet to determine whether it the ACCC’s requests are reasonable and should be exercised as well as whether Optus should pay for damages caused by its misleading ads.

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