How the Advertising Standards Authority defines unlimited is made clearer by its latest adjudication on an advert by Vodafone.
An advert for claiming "Don't get left in the dark. Unlimited Facebook on Vodafone. Make the most of now." featured a footnote outlining that the web browsing pack had a monthly data allowance of 500MB, and a fair use policy also applied.
Some twenty one complaints were received because they felt the data allowance contradicted the use of the word unlimited. It was also expressed that an allowance of 500MB was a significant limitation on the service.
Vodafone replied that previously the product had been described as unlimited with a 120MB allowance. In terms of usage it also revealed that a very small percentage of people using mobile web browsing exceeded 500MB in the month, the vast majority using less than one tenth of the allowance. Those who did exceed the monthly allowance were simply asked to moderate their usage.
The ASA has rejected the complaints based on the above information, with their full assessment reproduced below.
The ASA noted all the ads made clear that a fair-use policy applied to the service and the level at which the allowance was set. We noted the information provided by Vodafone demonstrated that only a very small proportion of their customers had exceeded the fair-use policy limited and that action was likely to be a request to moderate their usage in the first instance. We acknowledged that the vast majority of customers used only a small amount of the available allowance and concluded that the existence of a fair-use policy did not contradict the claim "unlimited mobile internet".Extract from ASA adjudication
The description of the 500MB allowance in the advertising, would seem to really be the trigger level for the fair use policy. Adjudications like this do give the green light to carefully worded advertising for broadband products claiming unlimited when in effect they are potentially worse performing than a product with a clearly defined usage limit. It is interesting to see the usage data from the Vodafone service, which suggests that many are perhaps just using mobile handsets for occasional web browsing, rather than replacing more traditional broadband services such as cable and ADSL.