Telstra pressures Vodafone to disclose your 4G mileage may vary

Telstra is on the attack against its rivals' coverage claims, this time telling Vodafone its 4G ads need to disclose that the company's network might not always be the fastest.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Fresh from a victory over Optus for ads for its population coverage, Telstra has now set its sights on forcing Vodafone to disclose that 4G speeds may vary on ads claiming the crown for 4G speeds in Sydney and Melbourne.

Telstra and Vodafone are understood to have exchanged legal letters in the last few weeks over Vodafone's advertising for its 4G network speeds being the fastest in Sydney and Melbourne. Telstra took issue with TV ads in February that Telstra said did not make it clear enough that speeds on Vodafone's 4G network may vary depending on the conditions of the environment.

In two almost-identical Vodafone advertisements viewed by ZDNet, the March version of the ad includes a disclaimer that "speed depends on location and use", while the February version does not.

Vodafone disagreed with the claims from Telstra, and ZDNet understands it will not make all the changes to its advertising, but has now included a reference to its coverage checker page in advertising to allay concerns from Telstra.

"Estimated coverage and speeds should be taken as a guide only. Whilst we try to ensure accuracy, factors such as building construction, local conditions, device and software, download source and network traffic may impact your experience," Vodafone states on the coverage checker page.

Vodafone is understood to have asserted that its claims about speeds are no different to Telstra's claim of being the most reliable network in Australia. No mobile network in Australia could claim to be the most reliable, or fastest all the time.

A spokesperson for Telstra said that the letter from the company to Vodafone was a reminder to the mobile telco to be up front with customers about its mobile network coverage.

"We know how important mobile network performance and availability is to customers. To that end, we recently reminded Vodafone they have an obligation to be upfront in their advertising about where consumers can access mobile coverage and the factors that affect a consumer's speed experience," the spokesperson said.

Telstra is understood to have advised Vodafone to ensure all future ads are in compliance with the Competition and Consumer Act, and the Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) code, indicating that the telco hasn't ruled out reporting Vodafone to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, or the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, for the ads.

A spokesperson for Vodafone said that the company will "vigorously defend" any proceedings Telstra decides to pursue, and Telstra's actions show a pattern of targeting its rivals over network coverage claims.

"Telstra has made clear they will aggressively pursue any network claims made by any other providers. The network information Vodafone has regarding speeds across all carriers means we feel very confident in our position. Vodafone will continue to invest and provide a viable alternative for Australians who want great value for money and some of the fastest speeds available in inner and outer metropolitan areas," the spokesperson said.

Optus is currently mid-way through publishing a series of court-ordered corrections on its website, in newspapers, and online news sites over an ad that compared the population coverage of the Telstra and Optus mobile networks inside a map of Australia. The Supreme Court of Victoria ruled that the ad could mislead customers into thinking that population coverage was actually geographical coverage.

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