While the latest trend among Australian telcos is to offer “unlimited” data mobile plans, ACCC chairman Rod Sims has now officially warned (opens in new tab) the companies not to mislead customers with this terminology.
The issue that the Commission found with plans from Optus, Vodafone and Telstra is that their respective “unlimited” plans did, indeed, pose some limits on customers.
The plan from Optus restricted speeds to 1.5Mbps when tethering, streaming and downloading (which is pretty much everything except for light browsing), while Telstra and Vodafone both imposed the same throttled 1.5Mbps download rate once the user had surpassed a data allowance (...or data 'limit', you could say).
While all of this was indeed explained by the telcos in some of their finest print, these qualifications were “not sufficiently prominent or clear to explain to consumers the existence and impacts of the limitations”, according to the ACCC.
Crime and punishment
If telecommunications companies aren’t transparent with their advertising in the future, the ACCC (opens in new tab) will invoke “court action from the regulator”, promising to “seek the highest possible penalties”.
“We have taken a range of actions against telecommunication companies for misleading consumers,” states Sims. “It is about time they showed more respect for their customers and the Australian Consumer Law."
Since a Federal Court case found Telstra guilty of false advertising with its slogan “One word for Australia’s best mobile network. Unlimited”, all three telcos have stopped using the word as a headline claim, replacing it with phrases such as “Peace of Mind data”, and “Mobile data that never ends”.