Watchdog tackles Optus on Fusion 'unlimited' claims

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has taken Optus to task over the wording the carrier used to advertise its widely-publicised Fusion combined home phone and broadband cap last year.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has taken Optus to task over the wording the carrier used to advertise its widely-publicised Fusion combined home phone and broadband cap last year.

The ACCC was concerned by national advertising campaigns carried out by Optus which touted that Fusion customers would be offered "unlimited" local, national and calls to Optus mobiles from their home phone.

The ACCC found that the deal was in no way "unlimited". The free calls to Optus mobiles only applied to those calls made from the home phone to the Optus GSM network, and not to calls to the carrier's CDMA or MobileSat networks. Also, the free local calls were only for "standard" local calls and not for 13/1300 and Community Calls.

The ACCC says these limitations were "not adequately disclosed" and "had the potential to mislead customers".

Optus has agreed to contact affected customers — connected to Fusion between July 15 and October 14, 2007 — offering account credit for billed calls made to the Optus CDMA and MobileSat networks and to 13/1300 numbers. For those still unsatisfied with the remedy, Optus has agreed to allow customers to cancel the Fusion plan without incurring a cancellation fee.

A spokesperson for Optus said that the carrier agreed to the ACCC's wishes after receiving a "small number of [customer] complaints".

"Compared to other voice products, it is safe to say that the number of calls made to Optus CDMA and Optus MobileSat networks is relatively small," the spokesperson said.

It is not the first time Optus has come under fire for the way in which it has advertised its Fusion bundle. Optus introduced excess data charges to the plans late last year - despite the unlimited downloads being advertised as a key feature of the bundle from the outset.

ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said in a statement that telecommunications advertising is "an issue which affects the wider Australian community".

"The telecommunications industry is on notice that terms such as 'unlimited' and similar claims should be free of the potential to overstate what is being offered," he said.

Neither the ACCC nor Optus would say whether the carrier is under investigation for any other components of its advertising.