Telstra has won a Victorian Supreme Court battle over a series of Optus advertisements.
The television and online ads say that when it comes to the percentage of Australians the Optus mobile network reaches, there is not much difference between Optus and Telstra.
They also feature an image of a map of Australia and at one point the words: “Optus 98.5 per cent and Telstra 99.3 per cent” appear inside the map of Australia.
Telstra argued the advertisements were “false, misleading and deceptive” and substantially misrepresented Optus’ geographic coverage compared with Telstra’s.
In a judgment handed down on Tuesday afternoon, Justice James Elliott said Telstra had established its case.
The ads were first broadcast in late January on more than 50 free-to-air television channels.
Elliott agreed the population coverage of the respective mobile networks was “similar”, with Telstra reaching about 99.3 per cent of Australia’s population, compared with Optus’ reach of about 98.5 per cent.
However, the geographic coverage of the two companies was markedly different, he said.
Telstra covers 2.356 million square kilometres of the Australian land mass. In contrast, Optus covers about 970,000 square kilometres, which is less than half of Telstra’s.
He said “there could be no issue that the geographic coverage of the two networks is materially and substantially different”.
“I accept the submission made on behalf of Telstra that these aspects of the advertisement were part of a deliberate advertising strategy that was calculated to benefit Optus’ business.”
A statement from Telstra said the ruling was a win for consumers.
“Optus has been caught out misleading Australians by implying their geographic network coverage is similar to Telstra’s,” the statement said.
Optus vice-president of corporate and regulatory affairs David Epstein said the company was disappointed by the court’s ruling.
“We have been consistent and transparent in how we communicate the less than one per cent difference in population reach of the Optus mobile network compared to Telstra’s, and these clear facts have not been in dispute,” Epstein said.
The court ordered the ads be removed from publication, and decisions on damages and a corrective advertisement were held over to a later date.
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