Australian ISP brought to court over misleading broadband ads

An Australian internet service provider is being brought to court over advertising its broadband as having “supersonic” speeds, which is misleading as well as scientifically dubious.

Optus, one of Australia’s largest ISPs, offered broadband speeds of 100Mb/s to its customers but then throttled their connections down a meagre 64Kb/s – over 1,500 times slower – once they had gone over their monthly usage allowance. This sparked outrage and cries that customers had been deceived about just how fast Optus’ broadband really is.

Now Optus faces the wrath of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which is dragging the ISP kicking and screaming to court. It claims that Optus has deliberately misled its customers and will bring in an expert broadband witness to talk about the massive drop in speeds customers are experiencing.

There are at least 11 instances of false advertising that are being brought into question, covering TV, print, billboards and online. All of these offered “supersonic” speeds which are apparently “four times faster than standard broadband”, without mentioning the severe drops in speed if the monthly cap is exceeded.

This is not a good year for Optus, as it has already been the subject of an earlier ACCC court case in June, after it claimed its voice and data plans were “unlimited” when there were, er, limited.

Towards the end of August one of BT’s broadband ads was axed by the Advertising Standards Authorithy after it depicted a misleading scene suggesting websites would load faster with BT’s 20Mb/s line, which is still a paltry offering in this day and age.

It seems that in their desperation to entice customers to adopt faster broadband many ISPs have no qualms suggesting they are swifter than they really are, but the move has backfired on the Australian ISP, which uses an affirmative “Yes” in its logo.

We’re going with “No, Optus” instead.