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Product: Telecommunications – Mobile Phone Network
Medium: Online - Company Website
ASAI Code 6th Edition: 1.6c, 2.22, 2.24, 2.45
The Vodafone Sim-Only Plans section of their website stated:
Bill Pay SIM
Why Vodafone Bill Pay?
Free Vodafone calls and texts
No need to top up
Plans with endless calls, text and data
Flexible contract – choose 30 day or 12 month contract
The complainant viewed the advertising and noted the statement “plans with endless calls, text and data”. He followed the link in the advertising and discovered that there was a limit of 2Gb on the plan he viewed. As Vodafone were not offering ‘endless’ data he considered the advertising misleading.
Vodafone stated that there were two SIM only plans with data with a limit of 1gb and 2gb with an option to purchase additional data. They said that they described these plans as ‘endless’ because for most of their customers this was sufficient data given that the plans were for short term and offered flexible data options. They said that for those minority customers where this was not sufficient data they offer the option, through an add on, to increase their data allowance and that customers also had the option to upgrade their plan to RED/RED Extra where they offered up to 10gb of data.
The Secretariat considered that the use of the term ‘endless’ was similar to ‘unlimited’ and therefore requested that they provide details on the percentage of customers who exceeded the fair usage policy over a 6 month period.
Vodafone said that they had updated their website to give further clarity to consumers and now stated “plans with endless calls, text and plenty of data”. They also said that they had never stated that customers would get “endless data” but rather had stated they would get “endless calls, text and data” which communicated that the calls and texts were endless and that the offer had a data allowance. They said that when the customer clicked through to get further information they could clearly see the data allowance they would actually receive.
In relation to the request for details on the percentage of customers who exceeded the fair usage policy, Vodafone stated that the information was commercially sensitive and were unable to provide it in the breakdown requested. They provided details of the average percentage of their data out of bundle on both plans for November 2014 and April 2015.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee considered that the statement “endless calls, text and data” was a claim of ‘unlimited’ use that applied to all three elements of the plan - calls, texts and data and did not accept that it had only applied to the calls and texts element of the plans.
The Committee noted that the requested information had not been provided by Vodafone on the basis that it was commercially sensitive. The Committee said that it was extremely important that advertisers provide such information when requested and confirmed that where genuinely commercially sensitive information was provided, such information was kept confidential. In the circumstances they did not consider it appropriate for an advertiser to not provide the relevant information.
In the absence of the information requested to demonstrate that no more than 1% of customers were affected by the fair usage policy, the Committee considered that the advertising was in breach of Sections 2.22 and 2.24 of the Code.
The advertisers should not refer to the plans using infinitive terms such as having ‘endless’ data unless evidence is provided to back up such a claim, confirming that 99% of customers are unaffected by the fair usage policy.