A website, www.three.co.uk, for a mobile phone network provider, featured text which stated "Go Roam. Go Roam the world in 71 destinations at no extra cost". Further text stated "On holiday we reckon you should be able to top up your tan and your Instagram. That's why we're helping you to Go Roam around the world without splashing any extra cash in places like the USA and Australia. We've already set up your phone, so you're free to get up, get out and #holidayspam up to 71 destinations around the world. Keep data roaming on and use your data, and call and text back to the UK, just like you do at home".
The complainant, who understood that customers were only able to use up to 13GB of their data allowance on their monthly contract (12GB when on a pay-as-you-go tariff), challenged whether the text "at no extra cost" was misleading.
Hutchison 3G UK Ltd t/a Three said that their "Go Roam" (also known as "Feel At Home") service was a flagship proposition that enabled their customers to use their call, text and data allowances in overseas destinations. They said the claim "use your phone abroad at no extra cost" was a simple and accurate way of explaining to consumers what the benefits of the service were.
Three said that the claim had been used since 2014 and was strongly associated with their brand. They stated that throughout that period there had always been additional detail and caveats associated with the proposition as it was intended only for holiday use. They said that EU Roaming Regulations came into effect in 2017, which mandated roaming at no extra cost in the EU but also introduced fair use limits, after which standard roaming charges applied. They said that their fair use limit of 12GB was far in excess of their average customer data usage on holiday (approximately 0.75GB per month in a Go Roam destination) and also over six times the average monthly data used per customer in the UK, calculated by Ofcom at 1.9GB per month.
Three also provided data which they stated demonstrated that very few customers would exceed the fair use limit. They stated that whilst it was important that customers were aware that limits applied, they provided clarifying information lower down the same page, in customer journeys (such as text messages), in their terms and conditions and in their price guides.
Three stated that they provided layered information to their customers through the website's landing page as well as their support page, which contained more detailed information on the service. They stated that their support page and their pricing guides made clear that a fair use limit applied.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand the claim "Go Roam the world in 71 destinations at no extra cost" to mean that they were able to use their allowance with no extra charges in 71 countries across the world.
We understood that some customers had a data allowance that was greater than 12GB or 13GB, and that those customers would be charged extra for exceeding that usage in one of the countries included in the service. We acknowledged Three's comments regarding the application of a fair use limit and noted that the "What's not included” section on the landing page stated, "If you have a data allowance of 12GB or more, you can use up to a fair use limit of 13GB of your data allowance (or 12GB if you're on Pay As You Go) at no extra cost", and that further information on the costs associated with the service were also detailed on the support page and in Three's pricing guides. However, we did not consider that this information was sufficiently prominent to alter the impression that Three customers would incur no additional charges when using their data allowance abroad.
Therefore, because for some customers there was an extra cost associated with the service, which was not made sufficiently clear in the ad, we considered that the claim "at no extra cost" was likely to mislead.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Hutchison 3G UK Ltd to ensure that their future advertising did not mislead by stating that there was no extra cost associated with using a service when further costs could be incurred.