Vodafone claims upset Telstra

Telstra may take Vodafone to the competition regulator on 4G claims.

Telstra is again threatening to take Vodafone to the competition regulator in a bid to force the No 3 mobile player to ­rescind claims it made in marketing and media releases that its 4G mobile services were faster than the telco giant’s.

The Australian has learned that lawyers from King & Wood Mallesons representing Telstra have demanded Vodafone change a number of claims relating to the download speeds of its 4G mobile services in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne.

The claims were made in a March 12 press release, which reads: “We already know Vodafone has the fastest 4G download speeds in Sydney and Melbourne. But independent OOKLA speed test results show we are now No 1 for speed in Brisbane and Perth.”

But Telstra has taken umbrage at the claims because the marketing material does not include a statement saying that download speeds may vary depending on what handsets consumers use and how far they are away from mobile base stations.

“These additional advertisements create the overall impression that all customers will always experience faster speeds on Vodafone’s 4G network in the stated cities compared to other networks,” Telstra’s lawyers wrote.

The telco giant’s lawyers are now demanding that Vodafone amend the press release so that customers are informed that they “may not always experience faster speeds on Vodafone’s 4G network”.

The letter also demands that any future advertisements by Vodafone promoting the speed and or coverage of its mobile network be qualified with disclaimers that the download speeds are only applicable in select areas of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

Telstra wanted confirmation by April 4 that Vodafone would cede to its demands. The telco giant’s lawyers said they would report Vodafone to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission unless the changes were made.

However, it is understood Vodafone has decided to not bow to the telco giant’s demands.

“We stand by our speed claims and will vigorously defend any proceedings Telstra wishes to pursue,” said Vodafone Australia’s general manager for corporate affairs, Karina Keisler.

“Vodafone is delivering some of the fastest speeds experienced on 4G handsets in Australia. Telstra has made clear they will aggressively pursue any network claims made by any other providers. The network information Vodafone has regarding speeds across all carriers means we feel very confident in our position.”

A spokesman for Telstra declined to say if the telco would commit to its threat to take Vodafone to the ACCC.

“We know how important mobile network performance and availability is to customers. To that end, we recently reminded Vodafone they have an obligation to be upfront in their advertising about where consumers can access mobile coverage and the factors that affect a consumer’s speed experience,” the Telstra spokesman said.

It’s the third time this year that lawyers representing Telstra have written to Vodafone and threatened legal action unless changes are made to its campaigns.

Telstra has a strong history in litigating against rivals when it doesn’t agree with their marketing campaigns.

Last month it won a court battle against Optus over a series of “misleading” ads that claimed there was little difference between the companies’ mobile networks.