ISPs have hit back at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) new guidelines on how they should advertise super-fast broadband services, claiming it is overkill.
The ACCC has warned ISPs to avoid making misleading or deceptive representations of top download speeds when promoting ADSL2+ broadband services. For a variety of reasons, these services rarely hit maximum throughput, with the figure quoted only theoretical.
A common factor in slowing the speed of ADSL2+ services, for example, is the user's distance from their local exchange.
While admitting ADSL and ADSL2+ services rarely hit top gear, Pacific Internet managing director, Dennis Muscat, said seeking to teach ISPs how to ensure related advertisements comply with the Trade Practices Act was "overkill".
"Knowing that a maximum speed is only a maximum when certain conditions are met is just common sense for most users, and already covered in the terms and conditions of most ISPs for those who don't," he said. iinet managing director and founder, Michael Malone, drew a parallel with dial-up modems speeds.
"You'd buy a 56K modem, for example, but the best you could get out of it was 40K. The majority of people just knew that. It wasn't a big issue," he said. Malone said that if a product wasn't promoted by its top speed, consumers would be unable to fairly compare it to other offerings in the marketplace.
"The problem here is how you distinguish an ADSL service that might go up to 8Mbit/sec versus an ADSL2+ service that is capable of up to 24Mbit/sec unless you say it can?" he said. "Should department stores not be allowed to say they're having a 50 per cent off sale simply because not everything in the store is up to 50 per cent off?"
Internode managing director, Simon Hackett, said he was surprised at the ACCC's decision to pursue the issue.
"I find it fascinating that the ACCC wants to jump up and down about this when they don't appear to be concerned that Telstra currently advertises broadband products without making it clear that it counts downloads as well as uploads in its totals," he said.
"If a Telstra customer is on a plan that charges them for uploads, without them realising, in addition to charging for excess usage, they can run up a significant bill indeed. Why isn't this being looked at instead?" All insisted ISPs did not set out to deceive customers.
"I think the entire telco industry has always been challenged by providing good customer service and transparency in its promotions," Muscat said. "Everyone's chasing the same rainbow and it makes no sense not to promote these services fairly when there's so much choice for users."