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Advertising watchdog: 250MB is unlimited

By Barry Collins

Posted on 14 Jan 2009 at 08:28

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has once again given mobile companies the green light to bandy about the word "unlimited" on deals with strict data limits.

A national press advert by Carphone Warehouse spin-off e2save promised "unlimited data" on a contract for the BlackBerry 9000 Bold.

The advert sparked a complaint from a member of the public, who discovered a footnote at the bottom of the ad stating the data was limited to 250MB per month.

The complainant argued the unlimited claim was misleading, as it was clearly contradicted by the 250MB limit, but once again the ASA has failed to uphold the complaint.

e2save cited data from network provider, Orange, that showed the "250MB monthly usage limit was far in excess of the amount of data that an average customer would use".

The company claimed 1MB of mobile data would cover "160 WAP pages, 100 short emails, four video clips or three music tracks".

Quite where the company got those figures from is a mystery: a three-minute MP3 track encoded at 128Kb/sec usally consumes around 3-5MB by itself. Not to mention the fact that the BlackBerry Bold has a full web browser, so users are highly unlikely to be accessing the stripped-down WAP pages anyway.

Nevertheless, it was enough to satisfy the ASA, who agreed "that the vast majority of customers were unaffected by the data limit, and we therefore concluded that the fair usage policy did not contradict the claim 'includes unlimited data'".

The ASA did, however, uphold its own complaint against the ad, for failing to mention the 250MB "fair usage policy" more clearly.

The ASA has long been criticised for allowing broadband companies to advertise "unlimited" deals that have set limits (not least by PC Pro).

Last October, a survey from Uswitch found that 86% of people who had signed up for an "unlimited" deal didn't realise that fair-usage policies and limits applied to their contract.

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