The Victorian Supreme Court has ruled that Optus' ad for its mobile network that represented its population coverage in a map of Australia was likely to be misleading to customers.
Earlier this month, Telstra took Optus to court, seeking to have an ad for its mobile network coverage pulled off the air. The ad that has aired since January 29 places the two population coverage percentages of Telstra and Optus in a map of Australia.
Telstra claimed that this ad is misleading because it infers that Optus' geographical network coverage is approximately 1 percent smaller than Telstra's, when Telstra's network covers 2.3 million square kilometres of Australia and Optus' covers about 1 million square kilometres.
Optus argued that the voice over in the commercial specifically pointed out that the percentages referred to population size, rather than geographical coverage.
Today, Justice James Elliott ruled in Telstra's favour, finding that the ad did infer geographical coverage whilst talking about population coverage.
"When viewed collectively, taking into account the contents of the advertisement as a whole, the dominant message conveyed is that the figures of 98.5 percent and 99.3 percent have a relationship with coverage concerning the width and breadth of Australia, within the boundaries of Australia as depicted on the map," he said.
"I accept the submission made on behalf of Telstra that these aspects of the advertisement were part of a deliberate advertising strategy that was calculated to benefit Optus' business.
"In these circumstances, the authorities establish that it may properly and more readily be inferred that the advertisement has the effect intended."
Relief as a result of the ruling has yet to be decided, but Telstra today welcomed the decision.
"Optus has been caught out misleading Australians by implying their geographic network coverage is similar to Telstra's. We're upfront about the extent of our network coverage because we know it's an important consideration for anyone choosing a mobile plan," a spokesperson for Telstra said.
"Curiously Optus has since removed information about its geographic coverage from its consumer web pages. Geographic coverage matters to Australians — after all we don't spend our lives at home. It's time for Optus to be upfront about the geographic coverage it offers."
Optus' vice president of corporate and regulatory affairs David Epstein said Optus was disappointed with the decision.
"While we're disappointed in the court's ruling, Optus remains committed to the strength of our network," he said.
"We have been consistent and transparent in how we communicate the less than 1 percent difference in the population reach of the Optus mobile network compared to Telstra’s, and these clear facts have not been in dispute.
"Today's battle has been about how you portray network reach, but what Telstra is really afraid of is a discussion on price."