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ASA slaps Vodafone on wrist over unlimited data ads

Jasper Hart
February 6, 2020

Clarity needed when advertising unlimited 5G, says regulator

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a series of Vodafone advertisements over claims by other telcos they were misleading.

A series of adverts advertising Vodafone’s unlimited but speed-capped 5G data plans caught the attention of the advertising regulator, after Virgin media and Three UK parent Hutchison 3G UK challenged whether or not they were misleading to customers.

The adverts appeared on Facebook, uSwitch’s website, on Vodafone’s website, and in a regional newspapers.

Vodafone has three unlimited plans, Unlimited Lite, Unlimited, and Unlimited Max. Of these, Unlimited Lite and Unlimited are speed-capped at 2Mbps and 10Mbps  respectively, while Unlimited Max offers speeds as fast as the network will allow.

Although Vodafone contended that the activities it recommended for each data plan corresponded with these speeds, and had not recorded any illegitimate use of the data plans since their July launch, the ASA ruled that the adverts were misleading due to consumers’ understanding that 5G means faster speeds.

In its ruling on the case, the ASA wrote: “The ads must not appear again in their current forms. We told Vodafone Ltd to ensure that future ads relating to the Unlimited Lite and Unlimited plans (either explicitly or implicitly) clearly stated the speed restrictions which applied to those plans. We told them to ensure that any references to 5G which would be understood by consumers as relating to the Unlimited Lite and Unlimited plans were immediately qualified to explain clearly that the plans would not deliver 5G speeds.”

A Vodafone spokesperson responded: ““The ASA ruling has no bearing on the TV advertising of our Vodafone Unlimited data plans which are extremely popular with customers. Our customers appreciate the wide range of unlimited offers available to suit their differing needs and the fact that we don’t charge extra for 5G.

“This ruling is a result of two of our competitors complaining about a tactical marketing campaign. We have amended our copy accordingly to reflect the ASA decision.”

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