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Medium: Internet (Company Website), Television
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 3.2, 4.1, 4.32, 4.33
The television advertisement opened with an image of a building carved into the side of a clifftop, the text over the building read “Meteor Secret HQ”: The next frame featured a series of photographs pegged to a line across a room. The following on-screen text appeared:
“Subject to sign up to 4G Simplicity Plan. See meteor.ie for terms.”
A male voiceover delivered the following message:
“Love social media but hate it eating up your data. Well we’re not just giving you all you can eat data (image of screen containing the word “DATA”) we’re giving you more than you can eat data (image of screen referring to “Unlimited access to Facebook Twitter and Instagram”) with unlimited access to your favourite social networks plus 15Gigs of 4G data and unlimited calls for just €20 top up (image of screen referring to “Plus 15GB Data and Unlimited calls for €20 top up”). Meteor we get it. Go in-store or to meteor.ie.”
The headline offer read:
“MORE THAN YOU CAN EAT YOUTUBE
Plus WhatsApp messaging, Facebook and more for €20 top up
With Meteor Simplicity, you’re in control. Simply opt in to the plan that works for you.
You can choose from our range of data, call and text options from as little as €10 top up.
What’s better, this Hintmas we want you to get more of what you really want like More that you can eat data with unlimited access to Snapchat, WhatsApp & Viber messaging, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube”.
A link to the terms and conditions attached to the “More than you can Eat Data Offer”
was also provided.
Under the terms and conditions and Frequently Answered (FAQ’s) questions on the advertisers’ website the following information was provided.
“You will have unlimited access to YouTube until 28th February 2017”.
The complainants, Three Ireland (Hutchison) Limited, said Meteor were implicitly comparing their offer to Three’s well known ‘All You Can Eat’ offer (‘AUCE’) by claiming in their advertising that “well we’re not giving you all you can eat data, we’re giving you more than you can eat data”.
Three said, having reviewed Meteor’s prepay offer, it provided a capped amount of 15 GB of data and on its bill pay offerings capped data allowances of 10 GB 15 GB and 30 GB for general usage, whereas their (Three’s) AUCE offer did not have any data cap.
Three said that Meteor’s “Social Bundle” offer included an additional uncapped data allowance to a list of eligible social media sites which they said would not count against users’ data allowance in respect of the applicable Eligible Plans. They said the terms of the offer stated that ‘use of detectable data on the list of sites below, (“the Eligible Sites”) will not count against users’ data allowance in respect of the applicable Eligible plans’ and ‘Should your Social Bundle data usage exceed 60 GB in a 30 day period and your usage affect other network users, we reserve the right to limit your use of the Social Bundle Offer and the eir Mobile Service’. Three said that their AUCE offer, unlike Meteor’s, provided unlimited data with access to all sites and applications and was not restricted to a limited number of eligible sites.
Three considered that Meteor’s advertising was misleading on the grounds that Three was the operator that offered ‘more’. They said the only similarity between the offers was that both providers referenced the fact that they could limit a customer’s usage should their usage be impacting on other users.
In conclusion Three said they do not have an AUCE out of bundle rate, unlike Meteor who charged for usage beyond the 15 GB allowance (excluding the eligible social sites) and as a result they reiterated that it was completely misleading of Meteor to advertise their offer as being superior when they were not like for like products, with Three’s offer, in their view being far more superior.
The advertisers said the Campaign had highlighted their offer whereby prolific social media users could get unlimited access to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram websites without eating in to any of their data allowance.
They had introduced the Campaign as a global Web Index study had indicated that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all featured in the most popular media websites in Ireland.
The advertisers said in accordance with the industry norm via other service providers, the unlimited Twitter, Facebook and Instagram data usage was offered to customers on the
4G Simplicity plans and was also subject to a fair usage policy which was similar to Three’s current unlimited product offering. They said Meteor had reserved the right to limit service to users on the Plan but only if their usage went beyond 60GB and was affecting other network users. Therefore, in practice, customers did not incur data charges for using Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
They said, as was clearly called out in their campaign, in addition to the unlimited element of the product offering their customers also received 15 GB of data. If their usage exceeded the 15 GB data limit by accessing sites other than Twitter, Facebook, Instagram YouTube, WhatsApp and Viber messaging, then standard charges would apply.
The advertisers considered it crucial to point out that their campaign did not make any reference to Three or any of their product offerings. They said their reference to “that’s just not all you can eat data, that’s more than you can eat data” had been used to highlight the fact that the Campaign was targeted at a particular segment of customers who wanted “more for free” i.e. unlimited access to the social networking sites and the 15 GB of data, which Meteor considered to be more than what their customers could eat regarding their data usage on the Meteor Network.
In conclusion the advertisers reiterated that they had clearly differentiated between the unlimited and limited aspects of their product offering by clearly calling out what was unlimited (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram Snapchat, WhatsApp, Viber Messaging and YouTube) together with unlimited calls and what was limited (15 GB of data) all for a monthly €20 top-up. They said their campaign had never claimed either implicitly or explicitly that their product was superior to Three’s.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee noted that Three, through their marketing communications over the years had consistently used the term ‘All you can eat data’ and that consumers would be aware of their use of this term. They considered, therefore, that while Meteor had not directly referenced Three in their advertising that in drawing reference to “More than you can eat data” there was a clear indication that they were claiming to offer more than their competitors and that consumers would see this claim as such. The Committee noted the Code requirement that in any marketing communication using comparisons, the basis of selection should be clear and the elements of comparison should not be unfairly selected in a way that would give them an artificial advantage or give rise to consumers being misled. The Committee reminded Meteor that substantiation was a requirement for superior claims.
The Committee also noted that unlimited access to YouTube was only being provided to customers until 28th February 2017. They considered that the use of YouTube could eat into a customer’s data allowance very quickly and as such this was an element of the package that should have been mentioned in the main copy of the advertising.
The Committee concluded that the advertising had not been clear in content and was likely to mislead consumers and to be in breach of Sections 3.2, 4.1, 4.32 and 4.33 of the Code.”
The advertising should not be used in the same format again.