Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Australia - consumer group calls for regulator to eliminate deceptive advertising

[itwire] ACCAN has called on the ACCC to stamp out what it says is out of control "wall-to-wall deception that seems to pass for marketing" in the telecoms industry, and it wants offending telcos to pay $1m into a plain language promotion fund for each breach of the Trade Practices Act.

ACCAN says it has sent the ACCC six separate examples of telecommunications advertising from Telstra, Optus and VHA that it believes breach the Trade Practices Act because they are "misleading, deceptive or unfair – and sometimes all three."

ACCAN says its submission includes examples of offers of 'free' calls and texts that are unobtainable for the average customer, the use of words like 'unlimited' when there are limits accompanied by lengthy exclusions and qualifications hidden in the fine print.

ACCAN CEO, Allan Asher, said: "The industry trades on a 'confusopoly' that banks on the fact no reasonable consumer can compare different mobile or Internet plans because they simply can't make sense of them."

ACCAN acknowledges actions already undertaken by the ACCC to stamp out misleading telco advertising: in September last year the ACCC gained court enforceable undertakings from all three major telcos to avoid using marketing hooks that had the potential to mislead consumers. And just last week the ACCC commenced legal proceedings against Optus for use of the term 'unlimited'.

However, Asher said: "It appears to us that the telcos are incapable of meeting their promises to the regulator that they'd stop misleading the public with this kind of advertising. They've been given more than enough chances, more than enough warnings, and now time is up for the telcos – the ACCC must take action to bring this industry into line."

ACCAN is calling on the ACCC to seek: interim injunctions to cease misleading and deceptive conduct; orders for corrective advertising; full compensation for any consumer who has suffered loss or damage as a consequence of unlawful behaviour; and penalty-free release from any contract entered into in consequence of deception.

It also wants the telcos to pays $1 million for each breech into an education fund to promote plain language consumer information.

ACCC told to get tough on telcos' "misleading, deceptive and unfair" advertising

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