The Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) recently dealt with a complaint about Telkom’s ‘unlimited home’ product.
The complainant argued that the product’s advertising is misleading as it is described as ‘uncapped’ and ‘unlimited’.
However, the the line is throttled when one reaches 50% of usage, and every client is throttled on the 20th of the month in terms of the Fair Use Policy, he said.
Telkom responded that:
- The term ‘uncapped’ is the telecoms and industry naming convention for deals which are not soft capped;
- Telkom’s uncapped offers come with a fair usage policy ‘FUP’ which is standard across all service providers;
- Telkom has further expanded on the Uncapped deals by naming them “UnlimitedHome”. Any customer viewing these deals will be directed to the terms and conditions associated with the offering and the FUP policy;
- This is also contracted between Telkom and its customer at the time of application for Telkom’s products and or services.
Telkom added that ‘Unlimited Home’ is a naming convention of the product and that the customer should refer to the terms and conditions to better understand the terms ‘uncapped’ and ‘unlimited’.
Unlimited vs uncapped
The issue of ‘uncapped’ and ‘unlimited’ has previously been dealt with by the Advertising Regulatory Board.
Historically it has been accepted that uncapped claims will have some limitations which will apply particularly throttling of speed of delivery of data.
In the case of unlimited claims, it is generally accepted that there should be no limitation.
Citing the above adverts, the ARB said that there are essentially two ways that Telkom advertises its offerings, with both using the word ‘uncapped’.
“The directorate is guided by the decisions of the ASA that accept that ‘uncapped does not mean that the use will not be slowed down by a Fair Use Policy,” it said.
“In most examples (although not in Advert 2) the word ‘uncapped’ is also asterisked, drawing the consumers’ attention to the fact that limitations apply.”
The question is really whether the inclusion of the product name ‘Unlimited’ leads the consumer to expect more, it said.
“The fact that a second word is used to describe the offering implies something over and above uncapped.”
Advert 1 vs Advert 2
According to the ARB, in advertising such as the example labelled Advert 1 above, the word ‘Unlimited’ is clearly explained as applying to Telkom to Telkom calls.
In these cases, the consumer would clearly understand:
- The internet is uncapped, which means that you can use as much as you need, subject to the Fair Use Policy.
- The calls are unlimited, Telkom to Telkom.
These examples are therefore not misleading.
However, in the type of advertising represented by Advertisement 2 both words are used, but the word ‘Unlimited’ is not explained and there is no reference to calls, the ARB said.
“The word ‘Unlimited’ appears to relate to the only feature discussed in the advertising – internet usage. It is in this context that it becomes confusing, and the consumer would expect that it means something over and above uncapped,” it said.
“It is indeed clear from the Advertiser’s ‘Fair Usage Policy’ chart that throttling is implemented on uncapped services.
“However, there is nothing on the chart that deals with unlimited usage.”
In line with previous rulings, an advertiser is permitted to throttle the service when the user reaches a certain threshold in relation to uncapped access.
However, the advertiser may not throttle the service where it claimed that it provides unlimited internet access.
“In the advertising represented by examples like Advertisement 2, the Advertiser has implied that it provides “unlimited” internet access and the impression is created that the service is something over and above uncapped internet,” it said.
“In line with the above principle, the directorate finds that the advertising which lacks an explanation as to the words ‘unlimited’ is ambiguous and therefore misleading.”