It was less than a year ago that telecommunications giant Optus seized the exclusive broadcasting rights to the much anticipated English Premier League games from the vying eyes of Foxtel.

The unexpected entry of Optus into the market was praised by many long-time subscribers for offering a more cost-effective alternative to Foxtel’s pyramid of content. The ACCC has been supportive of Optus’s foray into the market with the head of the watchdog, Rod Sims, citing that the move was “great for competition”.

However, the bubble seems to have burst for one Sydney based EPL fan who is less than satisfied with Optus’ ‘live streaming’ of the games. As reported in The Australian, Optus customer David Feeney has a made a complaint to the ACCC concerning the use of the term ‘live’ to advertise their streamed games. Feeney argues that the term ‘live’ has been used in a misleading manner due to platform’s streaming delays of 45-60 seconds.

The Legal Perspective

Following the poor streaming quality of the games, angry EPL fans have took to twitter to express their frustration with the Optus’ service. Citing delays, cut outs and poor quality playback. Consequently, Mr Feeney has raised his concerns to the ACCC to pursue whether Optus’ advertising claims about its streaming service are justified in light of these issues.

The ACCC is the independent statutory authority that governs the accountability and practices of businesses under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. Under Australian Consumer Law, it is expressly forbidden for businesses to engage in conduct that is likely to mislead or deceive and businesses may be held liable for damage suffered by a consumer, even if they did not intend to mislead or deceive them. Should the ACCC decide to investigate the claims further, the legal perspective on what constitutes a live stream will need to be clarified by the Courts.

The core issue of this claim lies in the definition of the word ‘live’ and how it should be interpreted or construed by a consumer. There has been insufficient precedent in the area of online streaming to determine whether the delay experienced of Mr Feeney and others constitutes a significant delay. As our use of media and entertainment experiences an ever increasing online shift, there is a growing need for the the laws surrounding broadcast media to evolve and provide legal guidance on how business and companies advertise their online streaming services.

Conclusion

A fan’s complaint may not be enough to make a case against Optus and its English Premier League streaming service but it has certainly shone a light on the legalities of sports broadcasts shift to online platforms. It is important for both business owners and consumers alike to examine how the changing landscape of broadcast media and entertainment services is governed by existing Australian consumer laws and what further legislative amendments are needed.

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Jennifer Wang

Jennifer is a Paralegal, working in our content team, which aims to provide free legal guides to facilitate public access to legal resources. With a keen interest in media and IP law, her research focuses on the evolving role of the law to navigate new and emerging information platforms.