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ASA Bans Ad for Lebara Mobile Over FUP in “Unlimited” Claims

Wednesday, Aug 10th, 2022 (7:57 am) - Score 4,208
Lebara mobile uk

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a website advert for UK mobile operator Lebara after a rival provider, Vectone Mobile, complained that the company was “misleadingly” promoting “unlimited” UK minutes and texts on plans that included a Fair Usage Policy (FUP) with thresholds.

The ASA has long warned both broadband and mobile operators about abusing “unlimited” terminology in marketing, such as by hiding key restrictions away in the small print or a Fair Usage Policy (FUP). Such issues used to be very common in the market, but this is one area where the advertising watchdog has been reasonably successful in tackling.

NOTE: The ASA clamped down on abuses of “unlimited” terminology in 2011/12 (here), but it took a few years and ad bans before some providers got the message.

Vectone’s complaint related to a page on Lebara’s website that advertised their 30-day SIM-only plans, most of which included claims of offering “Unlimited UK minutes” and “Unlimited UK texts,” and that a “Fair usage policy” also applied. But under its FUP, Lebara operated a threshold of 200 text messages a day and 3,000 voice minutes a month. Although, in practice they applied a higher threshold to the voice minutes.

Lebara said they believed it was industry practice for “unlimited” plans to be subject to restrictions detailed in a FUP and said that such measures were needed to prevent the service from being used for “non-legitimate reasons” (e.g. commercial purposes, suspected fraud, and numbers being used for machine-generated spam calling). But the ASA rightly disagreed.

ASA Ruling Ref: A22-1146306 Lebara Mobile Ltd

We considered consumers were likely to expect that telephony minutes and text services described as “unlimited” were not limited and therefore had no usage cap. Furthermore, consumers would not expect that additional charges would be imposed on users of these services once they reached a usage cap.

We understood that Lebara applied a cap on usage, of 3,000 minutes per month and 200 text messages per day, in order to regulate illegitimate use of the unlimited calls and texts. We also understood that in practice the threshold applied to voice minutes was higher. Customers who reached the thresholds were suspended from their service and charged the standard rates for calls and/or texts, respectively. We considered merely exceeding a particular level of usage was not enough to render a user illegitimate.

We noted the ad included text that stated the “unlimited UK texts” service was subject to an FUP. However, it did not state that the “unlimited UK minutes” service was also subject to an FUP. Notwithstanding that, because a cap applied to those services, which we noted that some of Lebara’s legitimate users had exceeded, we did not consider they were truly unlimited. Therefore, because Lebara had applied restrictions to “unlimited” services, we concluded that the ad was misleading.

As usual, the ASA banned such promotions and told Lebara “not to describe their telephony minutes and text services as “unlimited” if they applied a cap on usage“. The main gripe here is that it took the ASA this long to tackle the issue, although that’s largely due to the fact that consumers don’t always spot such limits or know they can easily complain to the ASA about them.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
10 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Bubblesthefish6 says:

    intresting how they FUP calls and texts but not data…? like I get no normal person is going to use 5k mins on the phone but a guy on the forum managed way over 9TB on their unlimited data. Just find it strange though they still want to cap calls and texts.

    1. Avatar photo Jackster says:

      Data is just airtime on mobile networks. Granted Lebara use ThreeUK’s network and will be paying for it.
      One could argue that the airtime cost is fixed so you can pretty much offer unlimited data as long as you don’t degrade other customer’s connection on the tower or network.

      Unlike data, calls and text to other networks can add up. This is why they have a FUP as the price you pay covers the cost of those mins and text to other networks. Any more usage than that, they are losing money.

      ThreeUk use to do free calls and text to other ThreeUK customers as the cost of airtime was worth it to get whole families in on the network paying monthly.

      Other providers who do offer truly unlimited mins and text have done the math and have worked out that all their subscribers together won’t use more than it costs them. Lebara margins could be so thin that one customer “abusing” their service could eat into 100s of customers worth of profits.

    2. Avatar photo Dan says:

      @jackster

      Lebara uses Vodafone, not Three.

    3. Avatar photo Bubbles says:

      First of all, Lebara is on Vodafone. My main 3 SIM has had hours upon hours of conference calls to other networks all at once and three frankly couldn’t care less. I pay for unlimited calls and texts and that’s what I receive. At last check my minutes usage was at 1,300 mins and that was all on conference calls with 3 people in, me as the host as 3 seems to be the only competent one at conference calls (Tesco and giffgaff won’t do it, neither will EE (from my experience)). Those are all the networks I was calling to and three couldnt care one bit. Three has no FUP on anything and pretty much all other networks don’t have calls and texts FUP. Lebara, giffgaff and Tesco seem to be the only ones.

  2. Avatar photo Alex A says:

    3000 minutes a month is about 1hr40 a day, some could average that though it is very high.

  3. Avatar photo Mike80 says:

    For balance, here are Vectone’s terms
    https://www.vectonemobile.co.uk/terms-and-conditions

    In particular section 6d (i) Unlimited SMS has limit of 100 SMS per day.

    And section 16 (iii)
    iii. Fair usage policy: In order to avoid fraudulent and/or commercial misuse, SMS usage is subject to a fair use policy of 100 SMS per day. Once your usage reaches this amount, your SMS feature will get blocked and you will need to contact our Customer Service Team to justify your usage and get it unblocked.

    Pot kettle black.

    1. Avatar photo Dan says:

      Wow, good spot! Perhaps Lebara can put in a counter complaint?!

    2. Avatar photo Bpo says:

      ” Unlimited SMS has limit”

      lol at it.

  4. Avatar photo Mickydamartian says:

    Vectonmobile should start looking at its self after scamming there own customers..

    Lebara should fight this and put in a counter complaint, I been with them for a few years now with no trouble and I get plenty of data, minutes and SMS. For just £5 a month

  5. Avatar photo Florin Motrogan says:

    Îmi doresc să mi obțin cartela de lebara veche pentru că am pierdut o și îmi doresc același număr de lebara înapoi Cum pot obține cartela și numărul meu vechi de Lebara?

Comments are closed

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