Optus rehashes old battles with new 'unlimited' plans

100GB and 200GB 'unlimited' plans shape users to 256Kbps

Optus has rehashed the contentious "unlimited" monikor to describe some of its latest Naked ADSL2+ broadband plans.

While branded as "unlimited," the two most expensive Optus naked broadband plans - 100GB Unlimited and 200GB Unlimited - only offer data quotas of 100GB and 200GB per month respectively. They are available at $109.99 and $139.99 per months respectively.

Optus differentiates these offers from less expensive plans by removing peak and off-peak time periods, allowing users to use all of the data quota at any time of day.

The plans, which count both uploads and downloads towards the respective quotas, shape users at a speed of 256 kilobits per second (Kbps) once the quota has been reached.

Optus' new plans follow a recent influx of "unlimited" offers from ISPs such as AAPT, TPG and Exetel. AAPT is offering unlimited broadband at $99.95, while Exetel has announced plans to offer $95 ADSL2+ plans with no set quotas for users "who have good payment history with the ISP." TPG's unlimited plans start at $59.99 per month, but shape the user's speeds during the 7pm to 7am time period.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has issued Optus with warnings several times about the use of the term "unlimited," forcing it to rename DSL and cable plans in 2000 and again in 2004. Last year, the commission again warned major telcos about misleading advertising, including the use of terms such as "free," "unlimited," "no exceptions," "no exclusions" and "no catches".

"Advertising that makes false claims about the standard, quality and value of products and services is a breach of the Trade Practices Act and will not be tolerated by the ACCC," Commission chairman Graeme Samuel said in a statement released in 2004.

"The broader telecommunications industry has for some time walked a fine line between compliant and non compliant advertising. The ACCC welcomes the co-operation of the three major carriers in clearly articulating what is fair to consumers and what is not, and their commitment to the basic principle of truth in advertising," Samuel said in a statement released last year.

The ACCC refused to comment on the new plans. Computerworld Australia contacted both the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) for comment, but neither could be reached at time of writing.

Other new plans in Optus' revamped broadband plans range include bundled home phone ADSL2+ plans ranging from $39.99 to $129.99 per month, and naked broadband plans that cost between $59.99 to $139.99 per month without phone line rental.

The new broadband plans not marked as unlimited distribute the monthly data quota between two 12-hour periods.

"Optus knows that customers want flexibility, value and great service from their phone and broadband provider," Optus consumer marketing director Austin R. Bryan said in a statement. "They also want easy to understand plans to show them exactly what they get upfront."

"In advertising and promotion, the overall impression is what counts - advertisers must not rely on minute fine print to disclose important terms and conditions," Samuel said at a conference last year. "Terms such as “unlimited” or “free” should be used cautiously."

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