If you’ve been looking at unlimited data plans since all the big networks started offering them again, you may have noticed that Vodafone is offering one for just £23 a month. Which sounds great! It’s not as good as Three’s £20 a month, but Vodafone does have better coverage that might make the extra £3 a month worthwhile. Then you notice that actually, this plan has a really stingy speed limit in the small print – a sub-3G 2MBps speed limit. That doesn’t seem right does it? Not when some kind of advertising is involved, as the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled.
It seems that the issue is that Vodafone’s advert offered a “New Unlimited Data Plan Imagine a world without limits…” that would be available from £23 a month. Both Virgin and Three complained that using the term “Unlimited” and its references to 5G is misleading, and that Vodafone’s adverts didn’t present the speed limits clearly enough.
The ASA has agreed, pointing out that consumers would not expect an unlimited plan to come with provider-imposed restrictions. Vodafone argued that it really did offer unlimited data, and that it felt the speed restrictions were “moderate and in line with [Committees of Advertising Practice ]’s guidance, based on the findings of customer research carried out prior to the plans being launched.”
But ASA didn’t really agree and ruled that Vodafone’s adverts implied that customers could enjoy 5G speeds for £23 a month on an unlimited plan, which it can’t. 2Mbps is mid-tier 3G and 10Mbps is low-tier 4G, so it’s nowhere near the speeds various parties claim we should be able to enjoy with 5G.
The fact that Vodafone didn’t mention the speed restrictions prominently enough (and in some cases failed to mention at all) and suggesting they could get 5G level speeds for just £23 a month, meant that the advert has been banned. So Vodafone has been slapped in the wrist and has been told not to run those adverts again in their current form. In future they’ll have to make it clear that the Unlimited Lite and Unlimited branded plans would not come with 5G speeds.
Then again it’s really shitty that Vodafone is imposing speed restrictions at all, which is something I’ve mentioned before. At the very least if you’re going to offer unlimited data with speed restrictions you could make those plans cheaper than the rest of the competition. [ASA via Venturebeat]