License article

Telcos on notice after TPG fine

The telecommunications industry has been put on notice for repeatedly putting ''fine-print qualifications'' into customers contracts after TPG was hit with a $13,200 fine for misleading advertising.

TPG had been advertising a product with ''500 free VoIP minutes'' on its website.

However, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) found customers could only receive the free minutes of voice-over-internet-protocol calls ''if they made one continuous call to a major capital city''.

''The advertising practice of fine-print qualification is one the ACCC is tired of correcting,'' chairman Rod Sims said this morning.

''The ACCC will take an increasingly aggressive approach to send the message that this kind of misleading advertising will not be tolerated.''

The commission added: ''The ACCC has repeatedly put the telecommunications industry on notice that it will not tolerate misleading advertising, and is concerned that consumers are regularly still not offered transparent and clear information about the price, terms and conditions for their services.''


TPG has not admitted that it contravened Australian Consumer Law by paying the fine, and had the option of fighting the fine in court.  The ACCC has the powers to issue fines without court action.

A spokeswoman for TPG said the company removed the 500 free minutes offer from its website as soon as the ACCC raised concerns.  However, it disputed the ACCC's claim the offer could only be redeemed in one continuous call.

"The 500 VOIP minutes were tolled based on a 10 minute minimum call duration.  As such, unless each call lasted 10 minutes or longer, it was not possible to make use of the full 500 VOIP minutes.   Although this tolling arrangement was set out fully in disclaimers and the primary pages in the dealer brochure and the website did say "Up to 500 VOIP minutes", there were instances in the TPG Website and the brochure that did not include the words "Up to" in the representation,'' the spokeswoman said.

"The penalty notices were issued in relation to TPG's Naked ADSL with VOIP offerings.  TPG included in some of those plans 500 VOIP minutes per month at no additional charge.  TPG did not advertise the 500 VOIP minute feature of the plans but the included VOIP minutes were shown as a feature on the TPG Website and in the dealer brochure."