Optus faces cable ad hearings in October

ACCC brings 11 ads around upgraded cable network into question

Optus will face court again in late October around allegations it misleadingly advertised the capabilities of its upgraded hybrid-fibre coaxial (HFC) network.

Industry watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) issued legal proceedings against the telco last week, alleging the “supersonic” and “think bigger” campaigns advertising its DOCSIS 3.0 cable products failed to sufficiently disclose qualifications around the speed of the network.

A total of 11 ads were brought into question across online, print, television and billboards which advertised the product was four times faster than “standard broadband”. The network is capable of downstream speeds of up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream, but this is capped to 64 kilobits per second (Kbps) once the user reaches their monthly download quota.

In a first directions hearing around the case held at the Federal Court of Australia offices in Sydney, Justice Perram determined to hear the allegations in two sittings across 27 and 29 October. Evidence will be brought forward to the judge by both parties on 11 October.

ACCC revealed at the first hearing that it had called upon a telecommunications expert to deliver a report into evidence around the meaning of 64Kbps and how it affects users, as well as “what kind of quality use programs can and can’t be used”.

Optus requested an extension on the delivery of evidence by three days, during which time the telco would possible be able to summon its own expert to deliver evidence.

Justice Perram agreed to determine penalties at a date following the October hearings.

He said the matter was largely one of advertising, and agreed with the ACCC’s legal representative that the case should be handled quickly and decisively.

The latest case is the second such between the telco and watchdog in recent times, with the ACCC taking Optus to court in June over alleged misleading use of the word “unlimited” on mobile, landline and internet plans. The case is yet to meet again since a first directions hearing, but the telco is seeking clarification around the meaning of the word “unlimited” in advertising and clarification around its use.

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