Telstra has accused rival Singtel Optus of misleading customers over the size and quality of its mobile network in a new court case that re-ignites a long-standing dispute between the telco carriers.
Last week, Telstra launched legal action against Optus over a series of advertisements that focus on improvements to national and state coverage which have the tagline “covering more of Australia than ever before”. Telstra is alleging that the ads – which include video clips of people at locations such as the beach, a farm and a vineyard – suggest that Optus’ network covers more of Australia than all other providers.
Telstra runs the country’s largest mobile network, which reaches 99.5 per cent of the Australian population according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data. By comparison, Optus’ mobile coverage reaches 98.5 per cent. But Telstra is alleging that the national and state coverage claims made in the ads, which have been running since last August, mislead customers into thinking that Optus has a larger and more superior network.
Telstra is requesting an injunction to prevent Optus from making the assertions, has asked for the removal of the ads and a corrective notice to be issued on its website.
Optus has not filed a response in court, but the telco’s vice president of regulatory and public affairs Andrew Sheridan said that the court action was a “clear sign” that Telstra’s claimed superiority in coverage was diminishing and that the ads were about Optus improving its own network.
“With our main competitor lifting prices during a pandemic, this action provides Optus with the opportunity to remind their customers we are a fantastic alternative with a premium national network, excellent service and superior value that they don’t have to pay more for,” Mr Sheridan said.
“We are proud of our national network’s depth and breadth of coverage and see this action as a clear sign that their claimed point of differentiation continues to diminish.”
“We will continue to talk it up because it provides coverage where it matters most to people.”
Telstra declined to comment.
Telstra and Optus have a history of launching legal action against one another for the way they advertise to customers. The Victorian Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that Optus had misled Australians over the strength of its mobile networks in a series of television and billboard ads.
Optus took action against Telstra in 2018 for a series of advertisements with the “unlimited” slogan, which were later found to be misleading. That same year Telstra lodged action against Optus over a group of ads which included the tagline “Empires end. That’s what they do” and displayed a Telstra phone box sinking in the desert. The case lasted months but resulted in Telstra’s argument being thrown out of court.
The court case comes as tensions rise between Optus and Telstra over changes to pricing plans. Telstra announced changes to its phone plans earlier this month, most of which were increased by $5. But Optus decided to freeze the price of all smartphone plans for the rest of the year. Optus’ marketing managing director Matt Williams said Telstra’s price spike was “tone deaf”.
This article was originally published by the Sydney Morning Herald. Read the original here.
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