TPG to escape ACCC fines for unlimited ads

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TPG to escape ACCC fines for unlimited ads

No twin bites of the cherry.

ISP TPG will not face the same fines meted out by the competition watchdog to fellow ISP Dodo yesterday, despite being pulled up for what appeared to be a similar advertising campaign for unlimited ADSL2+ services.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) yesterday invoked relatively new powers to fine Dodo Internet over $26,000 for advertisements for a $39.90 a month unlimited broadband service.

The watchdog alleged the advertisements were misleading because they "selectively quoted monthly component prices as the headlines" and did not make clear that the total monthly price was $69.80, including a compulsory phone line rental cost.

But Dodo was not the only ISP to be pulled up for component price advertising in recent months.

The ACCC filed a Federal Court case against TPG last month alleging almost identical behaviour concerning a $29.99 a month offer that actually cost $59.99 a month including phone line rental.

Acting ACCC chairman Michael Schaper told iTnews that the competition watchdog had two policing options available to it – "infringement notices" of up to $6,600, or court action.

Schaper said that each potential breach brought before the ACCC was considered against compliance and enforcement criteria to determine how best to deal with it.

"Up against that [criteria], Dodo was able to be settled by infringement notices whereas TPG warranted court-based action," he said.

Schaper said that the ACCC issued an infringement notice only "if the [accused] party chooses to pay it" – and that once it was paid, "that's the end of the matter".

He could not say whether or not TPG had been given the option to pay an infringement notice before court proceedings were instituted last year. A TPG spokesman was contacted for comment.

However, TPG would not face infringement notices – and fines – should the ISP emerge victorious in the Federal Court.

"Once we elect to go down the court path, the infringement notice option basically closes off," Schaper said.

"If we have our day in court, we have it and try to settle it there. We won't try to take two bites of the cherry."

The Federal Court has already proven a tougher enforcement path than direct fines.

The court already declined to grant an emergency injunction that would have prevented TPG from continuing to advertise its $29.99 unlimited plan.

A date for the full hearing of the case was yet to be set.

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