Yesterday, to much fanfare, Optus announced it would be making the remainder of the Fifa World Cup free to all Australians. As of now, the app still requires payment to access the content. This is not free as defined by the ACCC rules and guidelines regarding misleading or false advertising quotes the following regarding fine print:
“Businesses can't rely on small print and disclaimers as an excuse for a misleading overall message. For example, an advertisement states that a product is ‘free’ but the fine print indicates some payment must be made”.
Some advice: before announcing you'll do something (for example, provide World Cup coverage / make content free) actually make sure you can do it. Optus seems to have a major cultural problem of making promises it can't keep.
This matter needs to be solved by close of business TODAY or I will be raising a complaint with ACCC. Either remove the $14.99 upfront payment on Google Play or unlock all the content so it is available under the existing free subscription part of your app.
Except its not "fine print" you're dealing with. That clause covers the situation where it is not easily determined what is the actual cost incurred when you are signing up for a new product/service. Here Optus make the cost immediately apparent.
Optus has also effectively made the content free by releasing it to the Free To Air channel SBS. Additionally Optus are automatically refunding all $15 payments made for the service.
FWIW Consumer Laws are designed to try ensure Australian's essentially get what they pay for. Here the complaint is you can't just yet get something for free. I agree Optus does have some deep seated issues with some of its corporate behavoir but in this case they appear to have acted relatively quickly and effectively to do the right thing, even though it is probably costing them millions. Optus will undoubtably make its stand alone app downloadable for free shortly but is really under no obligation to do so.
From Optus' press release yesterday:
'Optus Chief Executive Officer Allen Lew has today announced that Optus will offer Optus Sport to all Australians for free until 31 August'
As of now, Optus are not doing what they've said they'll do in their press release. 'Free' does not mean 'you pay now, and I'll pay you back later'.
Reading a press release does not a deal make. Consumer issues are usually about preventing financial loss or deception or the like. Here there is no scope for deception or financial issues etc. No hidden costs or traps or fine print. I understand the impatience but I think the free offer is a generous one and should be taken in the spirit of that generousity and not subject to legal threats from the outset.
Others complained about Solomon Lew not being proactive or forthcoming enough with his statements on this issue, some think he's now telling people too much, too soon? I agree that Optus should have removed the payment gate by now (I'd be surprised if it wasn't down before the next scheduled game)