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Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

ACCC warns telcos on misleading advertising

The whole debacle behind “unlimited” phone plan advertising just got a whole lot more interesting, as Australia’s consumer watchdog pointed its finger at Australia’s telcos over misleading advertising.

When the likes of Telstra and Vodafone announced it has unlimited mobile data plans on the way, there was excitement, until you read the catch: unlimited data on your mobile, but most of it at a severely limited speed.

It was an interesting interpretation on what constituted the term “unlimited”, with a never-ending amount of data at an entirely limited speed, and one that didn’t really mesh with owning a 4G phone could provide.

We’ve written about it numerous times, and pointed out the potential flaws, not least of which would likely affect a 4G experience on a phone, and it appears we’re not the only ones a little frustrated by it.

Australia’s consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has this week called out telcos, advising that they need to make sure advertising is clear and not misleading, and may end up filing action against executives who approve of misleading advertisements.

“Telecommunications companies should be wary of using absolute claims like ‘unlimited’ where that does not give a true picture to consumers of what is being offered,” said Rod Sims, Chair of the ACCC.

It’s not the first time Australia’s consumer watchdog has been forced to get involved, investigating Telstra over the advertising on the unlimited plans, specifically it’s use of the following line: “One word for Australia’s best mobile network. Unlimited”.

While this referred to the data amount one could download per month, the phrasing implied everything was unlimited, including speed, which it wasn’t.

In recent court findings, it was concluded that the phrase was subject to limitations and exclusions, and as such, Telstra, Vodafone, and Optus stopped using the term “unlimited” to advertise mobile data plans.

“We have taken a range of actions against telecommunication companies for misleading consumers. It is about time they showed more respect for their customers and the Australian Consumer Law,” said Sims.

“With much higher penalties now available for breaches of consumer law, I hope they will take their obligations more seriously,” he said.

“From now on consumer law penalties will seriously affect their bottom line, and we will not hesitate to seek the highest possible penalties.”

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