WiFi Ready or not? Manufacturers clarify promotions

3 August 2012

Consumers will be better informed when purchasing WiFi televisions and Blu Ray players following intervention by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Five leading audiovisual manufacturers have agreed to amend their promotional material after the ACCC raised concerns about the use of the terms 'WiFi Ready' and 'Wireless LAN Ready' without informing consumers about the need to purchase an additional WiFi adaptor.

The manufacturers will either remove the terms 'WiFi Ready' or 'Wireless LAN Ready' from their promotional material and websites or if those terms (or similar terms) do appear they will be accompanied by prominent statements such as 'USB Wireless LAN adaptor required', 'WiFi Capable with Optional Adaptor' or 'Wireless LAN Adaptor required, sold separately'.

ACCC chairman Mr Sims said consumers now have greater certainty when purchasing audiovisual products capable of accessing the internet via a home network.

"Consumers should be confident that any claim of 'WiFi Ready' or 'Wireless LAN Ready' means exactly that, unless clearly stated that an additional adaptor is required.

While some televisions, known as 'Smart TVs', and Blu Ray players are capable of accessing the internet wirelessly, many other models claim to be 'WiFi Ready' or 'Wireless LAN Ready' when in fact an extra WiFi adaptor or 'dongle' is required. WiFi is a technology that allows electronic devices to exchange data wirelessly over a computer network, including high speed internet connections.

"The ACCC considered that the term 'Ready', when used in promoting audiovisual products, is widely understood by consumers to mean the product is capable of accessing WiFi, without the need to purchase any further device," Mr Sims said.

"Consumers should be able to trust that what's represented on promotional material is what they will actually get."

"This is particularly the case when the terms 'WiFi Ready' or 'Wireless LAN Ready' appeared to be used on audiovisual products offering in-built WiFi adaptors as well as on products which required an additional device or dongle," Mr Sims said.

The ACCC took action after receiving a complaint from a consumer who had purchased a TV promoted in a retail store as 'Wireless LAN Ready' believing that once the TV was installed, he would be able to wirelessly access the existing home network and internet connection. Instead, after connecting the TV, a message appeared on the screen stating 'Wireless USB device not found. Insert a compatible wireless device into the TV's USB port and try again.' The consumer contacted the manufacturer and was told that a WiFi adaptor was needed before the TV could access the home WiFi and that the WiFi adaptor would cost an additional $100 to $120.

Given that the 'Ready' terms had the potential to mislead consumers and contravene the Australian Consumer Law, the ACCC reviewed the Australian websites of several manufacturers and retailers, and visited retail outlets to determine how much information is provided to consumers.

Following an assessment of the various representations made in the marketplace, the ACCC engaged in discussions with five major producers, Sony, LG, Panasonic, Samsung and Sharp. Those companies cooperated positively with the ACCC and changed their marketing practices to make sure they fully inform consumers about the WiFi accessibility of their products.

Release number: 
NR 164/12
Media enquiries: 
Mr Rod Sims - (02) 6243 1108