Number 10 Respond to “Unlimited Broadband...
Number 10 Respond to “Unlimited Broadband” Petition
At PlusNet we’re different. We’re different for a variety of reasons, but one of those is our commitment to fair, easy to understand policies and products that are sustainable, clearly defined, deliverable and great value for money. What we don’t like to see is people being misled; products being mis-sold by the industry and consumers getting a bad deal. That’s why we made our Broadband Your Way product as clear and simple to understand as possible, whilst not misleading our customers with claims of ‘unlimited’ or ‘free’. We learnt back in 2004 that providing Unlimited Broadband within this industry is simply not sustainable. At that time we immediately stopped using the term in all our own advertising. Knowing that most other ISPs were all working with the same economics, we fully expected them to follow suit. However, we were mistaken, as it seems that the bigger players felt that they could hide behind woolly terms hidden away in the smallest of print. For a number of years now, UK consumers have fallen foul of “Fair Usage” policies that often aren’t even defined. Thousands of customers have been cut off by ISPs for “overusing” services that the providers define as “unlimited”. We strongly feel that some ISPs are preying on the naivety and inexperience of the general public, luring them into a signing up for a product that may not be suitable for their needs. Some Fair Usage Policies allow ISPs to disconnect customers whenever they deem fit, whilst some do actually issue a top-end figure in terms of allowed usage. We’re not happy with the use of “unlimited” in advertising in both of these cases. We don’t think it is acceptable for ISPs to disconnect customers for using a “unlimited” service ‘too much’. Additionally, we don’t think it is acceptable for ISPs who do publish a usage limit in the small print to advertise the service as “unlimited”. How is it unlimited if there is actually a limit? We just don’t understand. That’s why we’re unhappy that a petition to the PM to take action against companies who advertise unlimited services, with woolly or hidden small print, received far from a fair response from Number 10. Earlier this year, Kevin Peel, a broadband user himself and someone who clearly agrees with our morals, started a petition via the 10 Downing Street website. The petition stated : “We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Insist that OFCOM and the ASA stop Broadband Providers advertising 'unlimited' services that are in fact limited in the small print or by un-defined fair use policies.” It would seem that we’re not alone in our views either. Nearly 10,000 internet users signed the petition asking the government, Ofcom and the ASA to take action. PlusNet customers may even remember our mentioning of the petition in our Customer Newsletter. The most significant part of the official reply is reproduced here : “The Government is aware of complaints by consumers to the Advertising Standards Authority that some Internet or telephone packages are being promoted as being 'unlimited' or 'unrestricted' in some way. Qualifying an 'unlimited' claim with a fair usage policy in the small print of an ad is allowed as long as it really is fair and not misleading. For example, if 80% of domestic customers fall well within the limit specified by a broadband provider and the remaining 20% fall outside of it, perhaps because they are using a domestic package for business use, then it may be considered a reasonable claim.” We don’t believe the response has addressed the concerns raised. For example, they say : “Qualifying an 'unlimited' claim with a fair usage policy in the small print of an ad is allowed as long as it really is fair and not misleading” Nearly 10,000 customers signed the petition. Many of them will have done so after being misled themselves. According to research carried out by uSwitch, nearly 9 million consumers think that they have a truly unlimited service (source: MyFinances), yet uSwitch also say (as we have seen happen) that ISPs do not worry about speedily disconnecting users who they feel ‘over-use’ the unlimited service – and then charge them for the privilege. Surely the fact that the petition actually exists indicates that there are indeed many situations where people are being ‘sucked in’ and misled? Aside from that, we’re amazed at the government’s stance that if 20% of consumers fall foul of the woolly policies of “unlimited broadband" then the ISPs that use these tactics are doing nothing wrong. Naming no names, we know of one ISP who reacted to claims that their advertising of “unlimited broadband” was misleading by suggesting that “unlimited broadband” actually meant that the customer could spend an ‘unlimited amount of time online’ rather than meaning that customers could download as much as they like. We bet that if you ask Joe Bloggs what they think “unlimited broadband” is, though, they will almost certainly be under the impression it’s the latter. Unlimited Broadband simply isn’t fair on consumers. Most technically-aware people are well aware of this – it’s the unfair misleading of innocent and ill-informed consumers that really gets under our skin! So, for an easy-to-understand; clear; fair; sustainable; and great-value broadband service – take a look at Broadband Your Way. We won’t pretend it’s unlimited – but we do think you’ll love it. News References :-Pipex issues second fair use letter to some customersVirgin Media introduces traffic shaping for Top 5% of usersUnlimited Broadband Deals : Fact or Fiction? So what is better than 'Unlimited' in Marketing material?Unlimited - The word that means different things to different peopleAOL Introduces Fair Usage PolicyDowning Street dodges 'Unlimited' Broadband debate