Mobile networks in the UK have been told to tell customers about fair usage policies on “unlimited” data packages
The Communications Ombudsman has told mobile phone operators that they must be more transparent about what their “unlimited data” offers constitute.
Many UK networks offer such plans to customers, but these often have a “fair use” policy attached to them which caps the amount of data that a user can download.
This has led to many users unwittingly exceeding these policies and amassing huge phone bills downloading data as the ownership of tablets and smartphones increases.
However the Communications Ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith says that this confusion is unacceptable and has called on operators to be clear what they mean by “unlimited” in adverts and make customers aware when they are in danger of exceeding their limit.
“This is an emerging problem which we think could cause real consumer detriment – we want mobile phone companies to take action before it becomes more prevalent,” said Shand Smith
“Some mobile phone packages offer ‘unlimited’ downloads and consumers may believe that their mobile phone bill won’t go above a certain amount,” he continued, “Consumers may fail to realise is that there is a small asterisk next to the word ‘unlimited’ which refers to small print stating that there is in fact a limit which, if exceeded, will incur further charges.”
The Advertising Standards Agency has ruled that the use of the word “unlimited” is acceptable as long as the customer is made aware of their limits.
Most UK networks withdrew their offers of truly unlimited data last year as their networks struggled to cope with the demand, but although Three have since reintroduced unlimited data for a £3 supplement, other networks such as T-Mobile and Orange have fair usage policies.
In December last year, consumer watchdog Which found that ten million people in the UK were paying more than they had to for their mobile service, while Ofcom has launched an online consultation to help people deal with unexpectedly high bills.
The European Union has also been critical of roaming costs which could see customers pay as much as £10.75 per megabyte of data when using their mobiles abroad.