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Plusnet ‘totally unlimited’ claim found misleading by advertising watchdog

Friday, March 11th 2016 by Hannah Langston

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint about Plusnet’s claim that it offers ‘totally unlimited’ broadband.

The complainant said that text on Plusnet’s website stating that the provider offered “totally unlimited” broadband and “unlimited downloads, truly unlimited broadband with no usage limits” was misleading. They challenged whether it could be substantiated considering that Plusnet impose a traffic management policy.

In response, the Yorkshire-based broadband company said it does not impose any restrictions, exclusions or provider-imposed limitations on the line speeds of its totally unlimited customers.

However, Plusnet did say it employed traffic prioritisation. This allows it to prioritise different streams of traffic based on their relevance to the user i.e. it prioritised latency and time-sensitive traffic, such as Skype, over others, such as peer-to-peer (p2p) downloads, but only when the individual’s service reached peak contention. The ISP stressed that traffic prioritisation did not lead to a reduction in a customer’s line connection speed.

'Failed to provide test data'

However, the ASA said that Plusnet had failed to provide user test data to back up its claims about the impact of its traffic management policy on users within a household.

While the regulator considered that Plusnet’s traffic prioritisation policy was consistent with a service described as “unlimited”, it considered that this policy had not been adequately explained in the website ad.

“We noted that the claims were not asterisked or qualified in any way. While there was information on the 'Support' pages regarding the policy, we noted it appeared under the heading 'How traffic management works' and did not make clear that it was traffic within an individual household that would be prioritised.

“Therefore, we did not consider the ad made clear that a traffic prioritisation policy existed, how it was applied, or the likely impact for customers”, the ASA said.

The regulator added that consumers would understand “totally unlimited” to mean that the service was free from any provider-imposed limitations and as a result, concluded that the ad was misleading.

Plusnet was told not to show the ad in its current form again. It was also told to describe its service as 'Totally unlimited' only if there were no provider-imposed limitations to the service and to explain clearly any limitations it applied to the 'Unlimited' service.

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