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Advertiser: Three Ireland (Hutchison) Limited
Medium: Internet (Company Website)
ASAI Code 6th Edition: 1.6c, 2.22, 2.24
The advertising on the advertisers’ website referred to the following:
“Flex Plans - The Bill Pay plan that adapts to you.
Mini Flex 300
12 month contract €25.41
30 day contract (SIM only) €20.33
Flex Units 300
1 Freebie Add-on -
1 Flexi-unit = 1 call minute or 2 text messages or 500kb of mobile internet
With all Flex plans you get... Unlimited Three to Three calls*
All plans come with free 4G data until November 30th 2014.
From December 1st 2014 4G will be available for purchase through an add-on for €4.99 a month for Bill Pay customers.
*Fair usage of 3,000 Three to Three minutes per month applies”
The complainant said that having reviewed the details of the offer, she signed up to the Mini Flex 300 Plan. On signing up she expanded the details on site of what was offered with her plan and noted the reference to free 4G and that it came with all plans. One week after joining Three she received a text advising her that she had spent €10.12 on data and after making enquiries was advised that the offer was not valid on her plan. She considered the advertising to be misleading as she had interpreted free 4G as free data and she queried why the reference was included in the details of her price plan if it was not valid with her plan.
Three stated that on the Mini Flex 300 plan a customer is entitled to 300 flex units, of which one flex unit is equal to 1 call minute or 2 sms messages or 500Kb of data and the customer can decide how to use the units themselves.
In regards to the reference to ‘free 4G’, they stated that there was confusion on their website and they should have referenced it as ‘free 4G access’; they had since amended their website. They said that they were aware that some customers understood ‘free 4G’ to mean free data when in fact the statement ‘free 4G’ means that there is free access to the 4G network.
This benefit is free access to 4G technology and they said they highlighted the word ‘free’ because some of their competitors charged for access to 4G, .ie. customers must be on a 4G plan or purchase an add-on to have 4G access.
In relation to the complainant’s plan, they said that this plan is a talk and text plan where customers are provided with 300 flex units to use how they see fit. They confirmed that this plan does not include free 4G access as this only comes with Smartphone plans. They provided a screen shot of the details of their Talk and Text plans which detailed what was provided with these plans, and referred to the fact that Free 4G access was not included in the plans.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee noted that the reference to free 4G should have included the word ‘access’ and that the claim ‘free 4G’ or its correction, ‘free 4G access’ referred to 4G technology. The Committee considered that the reference “all plans come with free 4G data” implied that customers would get free data and was therefore misleading. The Committee also considered that the inclusion of this reference alongside details of plans that were not eligible for the offer was misleading and upheld the complaint under Sections 2.22 and 2.24 of the Code.
The Complaints Committee requested that Three ensure that future similar offers only appear alongside eligible plans. They also requested that Three clarify that the offer is not for free data, but rather was access of their 4G network at no extra cost.