We’ve seen advertisements on the backs of buses quoting a seemingly great price for a product or service. We’ve also spotted businesses burying questionable terms and conditions in the small print – well, at least with a magnifying glass.
Just because there’s an asterisk (*) next to a dollar figure doesn’t mean that all is above board according to the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). So, here are 3 commandments regarding the use of fine print:
Advertisements may mislead or deceive when they:
A central ‘commandment’ of the ACL is that advertisements must not be misleading or deceptive (or likely to mislead or deceive).
A condition in the fine print must not:
A business qualifying its advertisement with fine print must ensure that any disclaiming statements are prominently displayed and visible. Consumers must be able to notice the fine print and understand the actual offer without a magnifying glass.
In assessing the prominence of the fine print, relevant factors to consider include:
If fine print is used in an advertisement, businesses should ensure that:
The ACCC and the courts have not hesitated in stamping out sinful practices which contravene the ACL’s commandments on small print. Here are some examples of such ‘blasphemy’:
It is common business practice to see advertisements with disclaimers using an asterisk to limit the audience’s expectations. Fine print is often used in advertisements, labels and signs. However, these ‘blasphemous’ examples serve as a testament to the need for the fine print to be understandable without having to use a magnifying glass!
 Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) sch 2 s 18.
 ACCC v TPG Internet Pty Ltd  HCA 54.
 ACCC, Telstra pays $102,000 penalty following ACCC infringement notice for iPhone 6 advertisement (16 December 2016) https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/telstra-pays-102000-penalty-following-accc-infringement-notice-for-iphone-6-advertisement.
 ACCC, iiNet Limited pays $204,000 in penalties following ACCC infringement notices for Naked Broadband Plan advertisements (3 March 2015) https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/iinet-limited-pays-204000-in-penalties-following-accc-infringement-notices-for-naked-broadband-plan-advertisements.
 ACCC v Harvey Norman Holdings Limited  FCA 1407.
Posted on: 6 June 2017