The Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code (TCP Code) contains strict rules about how telecommunications service providers may advertise products and services to consumers.
What are the general standards for advertising?
To allow you to make informed choices, service providers must communicate offers of products and services in a way that is clear, accurate and not misleading. This includes using language suited to the intended audience and providing comprehensible, clear and accurate information without exaggerating or omitting key information.
A service provider must offer a level of detail in its advertising that is appropriate to how the advertising is displayed to consumers. This includes:
ensuring the principal message and the main terms are captured in the body of the advertising
ensuring that disclaimers do not conflict with the principal message and main terms of the advertising
taking into account the typical amount of time that consumers are able to view the advertising.
Any disclaimers must be clear and understandable, taking into account the type of advertising, including the medium or format used and its intended audience.
Before you buy a telecommunications product or service from a service provider, you must be given a summary of offer called a ‘Critical Information Summary'.
Other important information must be made available on the service provider’s website.
What information must advertisements contain?
Most text advertisements that include the price or dollar value for either an included value mobile or internet plan must prominently display standard charge information from 27 October 2012. This information will assist consumers to understand how included value or data allowance for these products can be used.
For print advertisements of eight pages or more (e.g., brochures) standard charges will be deemed to be prominently displayed if they are provided in a clearly referenced section of that advertisement.
Small online advertisements can include standard charges by linking to a page with this information.
Are there further requirements for special promotions?
Yes, the service provider must disclose the key terms of the special promotion and any key limitations, such as availability of stock. The service provider must also explain any time frames that apply to the special promotion, along with any special eligibility requirements such as using coupons or bundling with other products and services.
What must advertisements NOT contain?
Advertisements by service providers must not include:
misleading headlines about a price or offer where the fine print terms and conditions make it unlikely or impossible that you could usually achieve the benefits offered
the term ‘unlimited’ or an equivalent term when referring to use, unless the ordinary use of the service in Australia is genuinely unlimited and not subject to exclusions
the terms ‘no exceptions’, ‘no exclusions’ or ‘no catches’ or equivalent terms when referring to a price or service offer, unless there are genuinely no exceptions to the offer
the term ‘free’ or an equivalent term to promote or advertise a handset or other hardware product or service if the cost is recovered from you over the life of the contract by way of higher costs
headline representations for a price per minute for mobile phone calls, or calls made using phone cards, when there is insufficient disclosure of extra charges, including flag fall or call-connection fees or for non-standard calls
headline representations about a price for a particular product or service, unless that product or service or the advertised price is clearly identified as the price for that product or service when purchased as part of a bundled product or service
headline representations about prices unless any exclusions are prominently displayed
unqualified headline representations for ongoing prices for specified data allowances in circumstances where the price for that data is likely to increase within a reasonable use period
headline representations as to the minutes of call time available on phone cards unless those minutes can be achieved by you with ordinary use of the card
information on network coverage unless the coverage is generally available to customers in the claimed coverage area
a periodic price to be paid for a telecommunications product without also prominently displaying the ‘single price’ as defined in the Competition and Consumer Act.
There are also special rules for the use of the term ‘cap’.
Service providers cannot use the term ‘cap’ to advertise any new offers launched after 1 September 2012 unless the offers contain a hard cap. A hard cap is a maximum amount applied to a customer’s telecommunications service that cannot be exceeded.
Offers that were made before 1 September 2012 can be promoted using the term ‘cap’ or equivalent in television, radio and print advertising. From 1 March 2013, these terms can only be used if it is a hard cap.
If a service provider makes a claim about the performance of their telecommunications product and services in an advertisement, does it have to prove the claim?
A service provider cannot make claims in advertising about broadband speed, network coverage and other performance characteristics of a telecommunications product unless the supplier is able to substantiate such claims.
A service provider must substantiate a claim or representation made in advertising when requested to do so in writing by the ACMA.
What can I do if an advertisement does not meet these rules?
If you bought a telecommunications product on the basis of advertisements or other information from the service provider that do not meet these rules, you should speak with your service provider about any remedies that may be available to you. If you consider that the service provider’s practices may have affected a large number of customers, you may contact the Consumer Protections team at the ACMA. The Competition and Consumer Act—administered by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)—prohibits misleading and deceptive conduct. If you consider that the service provider’s practices are misleading and deceptive, you may contact the ACCC.