Victorian Supreme Court rules with Telstra that Optus misled public with ads

Optus misled Australians over the strength of its mobile network in a series on TV and online ad campaigns, the Victorian Supreme Court has ruled this afternoon.

The telco was taken to court by rival Telstra earlier this month after running a series of ads around bill shock which features a map of Australia with figures for Telstra and Optus in it.

(Ad courtesy of Ebiquity) 

Telstra claimed Optus’ campaign misrepresented the network coverage and the ads misled customers into believing Optus and Telstra’s mobile networks covered 98.5 per cent and 99.3 per cent of the Australian landmass respectively.

However Optus claimed it stated in the ad’s voiceover and fine print that the figures represented population and not geographic coverage.

Justice Elliot ruled against Optus and in favour of Tesltra, saying that any ordinary or reasonable person would have believed it to mean geographic coverage.

He said: “The message that Optus says it seeks to convey in relation to population coverage could have readily been conveyed without the use of a map of Australia.

“In short, I accept the submission made on behalf of Telstra that these aspects of the advertisement were part of a deliberate advertising strategy that was calculated to benefit Optus’ business.”

The ruling follows on from Optus altering its anti-bill shock campaign targeting Telstra after the rival telco became the last of the big three phone companies to limit the amount many of its customers pay for mobile phone calls.

David Epstein, vice president for regulatory affairs for Optus said the telco is “disappointed” with the ruling adding: “We have been consistent and transparent in how we communicate the less than 1% difference in the population reach of the Optus mobile network compared to Telstra’s, and these clear facts have not been in dispute.

“Today’s battle has been about how you portray network reach, but what Telstra is really afraid of is a discussion on price.”

A Telstra statement said “Optus has been caught out misleading Australians by implying their geographic network coverage is similar to Telstra’s. We’re upfront about the extent of our network coverage because we know it’s an important consideration for anyone choosing a mobile plan.

“Telstra offers 2.3 million square kilometres of coverage. And when it comes to data, Telstra’s customers also enjoy four times the 4G coverage area of any telco network.

“As of 21 November 2013 Optus said it provided over 1 million square kilometres of coverage. That’s less than half the geographic coverage provided by Telstra.

“Curiously Optus has since removed information about its geographic coverage from its consumer web pages. Geographic coverage matters to Australians – after all we don’t spend our lives at home. It’s time for Optus to be upfront about the geographic coverage it offers.”


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