The ACCC has initiated proceedings in the federal court against Optus charging that the carrier deliberately misled and deceived consumers by advertising a number of products as ‘unlimited', which were subsequently found to be tied up with hidden restrictions.
The regulator will focus in particular on recent TV, radio and print ads plugging Optus' ‘$70 pre-paid Turbo Max plan' (a pre-paid phone offer), with the ACCC also objecting to the carrier's use of the word ‘unlimited' in advertising for its broadband products as well as home telephone plans.
The case is expected to provide more clarity for consumers regarding carriers' claims of unlimited services, especially as demand increases for affordable broadband products catering to bandwidth hungry services such as video on demand.
AAPT made an announcement this week spruiking its unlimited ADSL2+ service, launched in February, as the ideal option for iPad users keen to start gobbling up rich content and new applications and worried about recent reports of 3G ‘bill-shock'.
But while AAPT says that its service the only truly unlimited offering in Australia, its true price would frighten many users.
In order to be eligible, users must first sign up for a minimum of 24 months to the "Anytime ValueTM/Home ChatTM Starter/ Home ChatTM Family + AAPT LiveNet® Unlimited 24/7 + AAPT Music Pack", according to the terms and conditions on the company's website.
This translates into a minimum commitment of $2398.80 over 24 months.
A spokesperson for AAPT said today that the company was not concerned about the ACCC's proceedings against Optus and had not "received any feedback from the regulator suggesting our advertising of this plan is misleading."
Claims of unlimited mobile phone services have also come under recent scrutiny, most recently in February when the ACCC disciplined TPG for what it saw as the company's misleading advertising blitz for its ‘Unlimited Cap Saver' mobile phone plan.
TPG subsequently made several court-enforceable undertakings to not advertise mobile plans containing number restrictions and hidden charges as unlimited "without including an appropriately prominent disclaimer to the effect that exceptions, terms and conditions apply.
Recent shock and confusion at charges for mobile data services such as 3G - expected to increase even further with the arrival of tablet devices like the iPad - has further intensified calls for greater transparency of claims made by mobile service providers.
Brett Winterford contributed to this story