Telecommunications industry leaders Telstra, Vodafone Hutchison (operating under the Vodafone, 3 and Crazy John’s brands) and Optus (also on behalf of Virgin Mobile) have indicated to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that they will improve their advertising practices so that consumers are better informed about the products and services they offer.

The announcement is part of an effort launched by the ACCC earlier this year to clean up telecommunications advertising.

In announcing the acceptance of the undertaking, ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel asserted, “Having the three major carriers on board is a critical step and the management of the major companies should be applauded for taking a stand. The broader telecommunications industry has for some time walked a fine line between compliant and non-compliant advertising.”

The ACCC pointed to 12 of the most prevalent types of misleading conduct made by telcos, with the three industry leaders stressing that their advertising will not make these claims in circumstances where they are likely to be misleading to consumers.

Some of the poor practices the agreement covers include:

  • Use of terms such as ‘free’, ‘unlimited’, ‘no exceptions’, ‘no exclusions’ or ‘no catches’ when this is not the case
  • Headline price offers in the form of ‘price per minute’ for mobile phones and phone cards when there are other fees/charges which are not clearly disclosed, and
  • Headline claims relating to price, data allowances, total time allowances, speeds and network coverage where the claims cannot generally be sustained for all consumers.

“The ultimate test will come as future behaviour in the market is monitored and I remind all companies involved in telecommunications that the ACCC will continue its vigilant monitoring of their advertising practices, and will without hesitation take legal action to deal with any further flouting of the law,” Samuel said.