Australian operator Optus has found itself in legal trouble thanks to the word “unlimited”. The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) is taking the operator to court, because it’s unlimited plan isn’t unlimited at all.
What’s the ACCC?
The ACCC is a powerful organisation with a broad mandate. Not only does it regulate national infrastructure services, it protects consumer and business rights, enforces anti-competition laws and monitors pricing.
What has Optus done?
What this all comes down to is misleading use of the word “unlimited”. One of the plans that Optus offers subscribers is a pre-paid plan called Turbo Max. This plan costs AUS$70, and gets you 3,000 minutes of talk time per month. Which is a LOT of talk time – that’s 50 hours per month. But “a lot” isn’t the same as “unlimited”, which is the word that Optus used in its advertising.
The following image sums it up nicely. It’s taken directly from the Optus website. In the space of a few inches, Optus refers to the plan as “unlimited”, and immediately qualifies that by stating that it’s only unlimited as long as you don’t go over 3,000 minutes.
So one side you’ve got Optus, who is saying that despite the use of the word unlimited it’s pretty clear exactly what you’re paying for. They made no attempt to hide that you were getting 3,000 minutes.
On the other side is the ACCC, which is pointing to the part of the Trade Practices Act that says “a corporation shall not, in trade or commerce, engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive.”
What we think?
Quite apart from the fact that 3,000 is indeed a massive amount of voice time, it’s not unlimited. There’s a vert specific meaning to that word, and it doesn’t mean “capped at 3,000″. It means “there is no cap”. Whether or not the actual amount of time purchased is clearly highlighted, you don’t use that word unless you want people to think it really is unlimited. I predict the ACCC will have Optus strung out for this one, and rightly so. Operators have a tendency to mislead their customers – just think about bill shock, and whether or not your wireless internet has ever been as fast as advertised – and it’s good to see one being hauled up on that.