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Medium: Internet (Company Website)
ASAI Code 6th Edition: 1.6(c), 2.9, 2.22, 2.23, 2.24
The advertisers’ website referred to the following:
BROADBAND IN WEXFORD
Connection €49 Download 25Mbps
Upload 5Mbps – Unlimited Usage”
For regular internet users who still demand the speed and convenience of broadband. There are NO Mobile broadband/3G sticks. It’s fast reliable broadband with no overusage extra charges…”
The terms and conditions applicable to the offer referred to the fact that there was an “Acceptable Usage Policy” associated with the package.
The complainant said that he switched to Skytel to avail of the ‘unlimited’ offer advertised as it appeared to be suitable for his family needs. After using the service for about a week, however, the complainant said that his speeds were reduced to 3Mb. When he queried the reason for this with the advertiser, he was informed that he had been using the internet too much and to be fair to their other customers who may not have such excessive usage, they had to reduce his speeds. The complainant said that he should have been entitled to what was advertised and as this was not the case, he considered the advertising to be misleading.
The advertisers said that they were a fast growing company who prided themselves in delivering a good service and being upfront and honest with their customers. They said as an internet service provider (ISP) they considered themselves to be an exception to the rule as they did not require customers to take out long term contracts and customers could cancel their contract by providing just one month’s notice.
The advertisers pointed out that usage was measured in Gigabytes (GB) and they did not restrict customers from downloading or uploading data. The rate at which customers could download or upload was of course affected by the speed at which broadband was being delivered (Mbits). They said that while they had Fair Usage Amounts guidelines which customers were requested to adhere to, they did not charge for excessive usage.
The advertisers said that residential broadband was a shared (or contended) product. Speeds were not guaranteed and could fluctuate depending on network usage or a customer’s personal usage. Because residential broadband was a shared product the advertisers said they had to ensure that the connection was shared fairly amongst all users. They said as they had Fair Usage Policy guidelines in place, which they asked their customers to adhere to, they did not consider their advertising to be misleading.
The Secretariat asked the advertisers to indicate what their usage limit was and to indicate where on their website consumers could access information on their Fair Usage Policy and its thresholds.
The advertisers failed to respond further in the matter.
The Complaints Committee considered the details of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. They noted that while the advertisers had responded to the complaint that they had not provided adequate information to substantiate the claims made in their advertising.
The Committee noted that they had previously accepted that the description ‘Unlimited’ could be used in circumstances where a Fair Usage Policy was in place. However, advertising should refer to the fact that such a policy existed and consumers should be informed what the applicable usage threshold was.
In addition, advertisers should be able to demonstrate that the vast majority of customers (at least 99%) on the relevant plan, were not affected by the policy.
As the advertisers had failed to provide the relevant information in relation to their Fair Usage Policy, the Committee upheld the complaint under Sections 2.9, 2.22, 2.23 and 2.24 of the Code.