By Keri Algar

MELBOURNE, VIC: The fine print was too small, according to the Federal Court, who has ruled Optus’ advertising of “unlimited broadband” as deceptive and misleading.

When a consumer reached a data allowance in the advertised “unlimited” broadband plans of 15GB or 30GB the speed of the service was slowed to 256kbs, which according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is too slow for accessing popular online services such as YouTube and Skype. This information was disclosed to the consumer, but only in very small print, which according to Justice North contravenes section 52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974. 

The ACCC has cautioned telco providers to avoid Optus’ error.

“Telecommunications providers should think very carefully before claiming that their service offerings are unlimited.  If there are any limitations, then they run the risk that the advertisements are misleading and that they will receive unwanted attention from the ACCC,” ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said.

“It is simply unacceptable to make bold headline claims like 'unlimited' and then to bury important conditions or qualifications in the fine print as Optus did in this case.  Further, simply disclosing the existence of a condition may not be enough.  In this case, the Act also required Optus to explain to consumers the effect of the condition on the functionality of the service being provided.

“Telecommunications providers should now be in no doubt that the ACCC will take action against them if they engage in misleading advertising.  The Competition and Consumer Act 2010 demands truth in advertising and consumers deserve nothing less.”

The ruling pertains to advertising for the Optus $70 pre-paid mobile Turbo Max offer, $40 pre-paid mobile Turbo Text offer and Fusion home telephone and broadband bundle plan.

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