Internet service providers Dodo and iPrimus, both owned by Vocus Group, have been fined $2.5m for lying about the speeds of their NBN plans.
For 13 months between March 2018 and April 2019, the two made misleading claims about their typical evening speeds.
Instead of using industry best practice methods for measuring the speed of their NBN services, the two opted to use a “flawed” methodology devised by Vocus Group.
“The ACCC brought this case [in June 2020] because we were concerned that the methodology which the Vocus Group used as the basis for its speed claims cherry-picked only the fastest speeds its network could deliver, and ignored the slower speeds many of its customers experienced,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chair Rod Sims said.
“Despite clear ACCC guidance on making broadband speed claims, Vocus Group used a flawed methodology which was inconsistent with that guidance, and misled consumers about the speeds of its plans.
“These misleading speed claims meant consumers could not accurately compare different offerings and make an informed choice about their broadband provider.”
Justice Murphy of the Federal Court said the fact Vocus Group wilfully ignored industry best practice by the ACCC and chose its own methodology – “which as it eventuated had a number of deficiencies” – was material to the penalties imposed.
The court ruled Dodo Services pay a $1.5m fine and Primus Telecommunications pay $1m.
Both ISPs admitted liability and agreed to make joint submissions to the court regarding penalties and other orders.
Vocus is the fourth largest telecommunications operator in Australia, with 436,000 broadband customers, representing a 5.2 per cent market share of consumer NBN services.
In a May 2021 roundup of ISPs, consumer organisation Choice found Dodo was the worst ISP in terms of overall customer satisfaction for its NBN services and had the slowest connection speeds. There were too few survey respondents using iPrimus to register any meaningful results.
In 2019, the ACCC was in discussions with Dodo, iPrimus and Exetel to remove advertisements that overstated speed claims during busy hours.
A year earlier, the ACCC ruled ISPs including Dodo and iPrimus refund thousands of dollars to customers who could not reach advertised speeds.