A web page for an iPhone unlocking service, seen on www.iphoneimei.net in September 2017, stated "Factory unlock Orange UK iPhone. Price from £19.99".
The complainant, who had paid £19.99 to have their phone unlocked and was subsequently asked for further payment, challenged whether the claim "Price from £19.99" was misleading and could be substantiated.
iPhoneIMEI.net said that sometimes to release a handset there could be an early termination fee payable to the carrier. Without submitting the request they did not know what that fee would be. They said their website was not aimed at UK consumers. They said the website was intelligent and always displayed the price in the consumer’s local currency, a standard feature of most shopping carts. UK consumers made up less than 3% of their sales.
The ASA noted the prices on the website were displayed in pounds sterling and users were unable to alter the currency themselves. We therefore considered that the ad was aimed at UK consumers.
We considered consumers would understand the claim “Price from £19.99” to mean a significant proportion of customers would receive the full unlocking service for £19.99, with no additional fees. However, we understood in some instances there would be additional fees payable in order to complete the process. We understood the complainant had been asked for further payment after transferring £19.99. We noted there was no further information on the website to indicate that consumers might have to pay an additional fee. Because we had not seen evidence that a significant proportion of customers would get their iPhone unlocked for the price stated, we concluded that the price claim “Price from £19.99” had not been substantiated and was therefore misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising), 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation), and 3.17 3.17 Price statements must not mislead by omission, undue emphasis or distortion. They must relate to the product featured in the marketing communication. (Prices).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told iPhoneIMEI.net to ensure they held substantiation for the price claims made on their website. We also told them to ensure that they made clear if there was a possibility that consumers might need to pay additional fees to obtain the service.