Advertising body to review use of word 'unlimited' after getting 20 complaints linked to phone and broadband providers

Advertising body to review use of word 'unlimited' after getting 20 complaints linked to phone and broadband providers

The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) has received 20 complaints in 18 months from the public relating to phone and broadband providers advertising products as "unlimited" when they actually included caps.

Many Irish operators, including Eir, Vodafone, Three and Virgin, advertise broadband or mobile phone services as 'unlimited' or having 'all-you-can-eat data' but include caps. Exceeding these caps - so-called "fair usage charges" - can result in costly penalties for consumers, though many are unaware that the limits even exist.

The ASAI's code of standards claims that "a marketing communication should not mislead, or be likely to mislead, by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise".

The ASAI has confirmed that it has received 20 complaints from the public relating to fair usage charges since the start of last year. Eight of these have been lodged in 2019.

In 2018, the ASAI resolved a total of 192 complaints about a range of telecommunications advertising issues, with fair usage policies comprising 6% of the total.

Last week, the ASAI confirmed that it is set to undertake a review of the terminology that can be used when it comes to advertising mobile and broadband services.

A guidance note is being prepared for telecommunications companies and the advertising watchdog has specifically identified the word "unlimited" as one that needs to be reassessed.

However, while the ASAI has confirmed that the review will take place, a spokesperson noted that the process has not yet started: "Once undertaken, we will be looking at the conditions in which the term can continue to be used by advertisers."

Currently, advertisers can use the term 'unlimited' even when plans have caps if they affect "no more than 1% of customers".

They are required to warn customers when they are reaching their limits, though.

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