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Lycamobile UK’s False Unlimited 4G Mobile Data Ad Banned for a Third Time

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 (7:28 am) - Score 1,756

Mobile operator Lycamobile UK appears to have become a serial offender after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned, for a third time no less, a “misleading” promotion on their website that claimed to offer “UNLIMITED DATA NOW WITH 4G” when in fact the data usage was effectively capped to just 5GB (GigaBytes).

A nearly identical promotion was banned in July 2013 for broadly the same reason (here) and then again only a few months ago (here). As before Three UK and two members of the public complained that the claim “unlimited data” was misleading because the customers could only use 5GB of data in a month before their connections were slowed to 2G speeds, which would be similar to old-fashioned dialup (narrowband) performance.

ASA Ruling (Ref: A14-282052)

The ASA considered that “unlimited” was a strong claim and that consumers were likely to expect that services, or features of services, described as “unlimited” would be subject only to moderate restrictions. We understood the “Unlimited Data” claim that appeared on Lycamobile’s website referred to a service in which customers would have their speeds significantly reduced, from 4G to 2G, as a result of exceeding the data thresholds.

In that context, we considered, although the restriction might only affect a small proportion of customers, reducing users’ download speeds to that extent was not moderate and that any reference to it was likely to contradict, rather than clarify, the claims that the service was “unlimited”. We therefore concluded that the claim “Unlimited Data” was misleading.

Unlike the previous ban Lycamobile did at least respond to the ASA this time and promised to include an asterisk next to the claim that would link to their T&C’s, which in turn would explain the limits. However the ASA banned the advert and told Lycamobile UK not to claim that their service was “unlimited” if they imposed restrictions that were more than moderate, which means that simply adding an asterisk wouldn’t be enough.

A quick check of Lycamobile’s website now shows that the related “UK 15 Plan” is being advertised as offering 5GB of data and not “unlimited data“. Finally, and it only one and a half years to achieve some basic honesty for consumers.

UPDATE 9:44am

It’s been pointed out that the dedicated page for the UK 15 Plan does mention 5GB as stated above, yet the overall index of packages that includes the same plan simply states “Unlimited*” and this could confuse customers since directly below it also states “Dial *139*11244#“, which is the only other asterisk remark we could find that was of relevance to the package. It would have been easy to link the specific T&C’s had they wanted to do that.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
3 Responses
  1. Avatar RLP says:

    The toothless giant strikes again.

  2. Avatar Tim says:

    Repeat offenders should not be allowed to advertise until their adverts have been checked or simply banned from advertising altogether for 6~12 months.

  3. Avatar Chris Evans says:

    Repeat Offenders such as this should as has been said be banned from making adverts, have the faults publicized and also be fined!

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