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Optus fined for misleading ads

Lucy Battersby (Melbourne Age) | May 18, 2011
SingTel’s wholly-owed Australian subsidiary fined for misleading mobile plans.

SingTel's wholly-owed Australian subsidiary Optus has been slugged with a A$180,000 fine from the competition watchdog for misleading mobile plans where the so-call maximum was in fact a minimum price.

Optus was issued with 27 infringement notices by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on April 18, and has now paid fines totalling $178,200.

''If you advertise a service as a AUD'$49 Max Cap' when $49 is the minimum that consumers have to pay, then you risk breaching the law by misleading consumers about the cost of the service,'' ACCC chairman Peter Kell said in a statement today.

Optus advertised the product in July and August last year. It also claimed consumers could use call credit to call anyone when only certain call types were allowed, the ACCC noted. 

It was fined AUD$6600 for 27 infringements based on the number of advertisements and the number of claims in each ad. Optus has not yet responded to a request for comment.

It is the second time this year that Optus has been caught out for misleading advertising. In February the Federal Court in Melbourne agreed with the ACCC that Optus' so-called unlimited fixed broadband plans did contain limits. Optus was not fined but had to pay its own costs.

At the time, Justice Tony North said the plans were not unlimited because a customer's download speed was restricted to 256 kilobits per second after they downloaded 30 gigabytes of data, and this made internet applications "unworkable or significantly impaired".

He rejected Optus's argument that consumers would expect "unlimited" to refer to volume, not the speed of downloads.



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