A website for Official iPhone Unlock, www.officialiphoneunlock.co.uk, seen in August 2017, included text on a web page, titled “iCloud Unlock”, stated “Find My iPhone includes a feature called Activation Lock that is designed to prevent anyone else from using an iPhone … if it’s ever lost or stolen … However, this also means an innocent consumer may have acquired an iPhone … and are stuck with an unusable device and unable to contact the original owner - we can help you resolve this issue. Using our iCloud Activation Lock Removal service, the Activation Lock is permanently removed and the device removed from the previous owner's iCloud account …”.
Text further down the page stated, “If your iPhone is stuck on any of the screens below - you need this service”. Three images of iPhone display screens appeared below this text. Two images showed display screens with text which stated “Activate iPhone” and the third image showed a locked display screen with text which stated “This iPhone has been lost. Please call me …”.
In between that text and the images, text stated, “SPECIAL TERMS PLEASE READ: Devices in ‘Lost Mode’ or handsets which are reported Lost/Stolen to the carrier are currently incompatible with this service. We are unable to check the status of a device our end initially until the service has been attempted, and the supplier has made it clear the [sic] no refunds can be made. Premium service for lost/stolen devices is available from time to time”.
The complainant, who had activated the Find My iPhone function on their phone but had not reported it as lost or stolen, paid for the service and was subsequently told that because their phone had been reported using Find My iPhone they would not be reimbursed, challenged whether the claims and use of the images were misleading.
Official iPhone Unlock Ltd t/a officialiphoneunlock.co.uk said they believed the ad was quite clear because the text “SPECIAL TERMS PLEASE READ” was bolded. They also said when the premium service was available, which occurred from time to time, they could also carry out the “service for lost/stolen devices” as implied by the image of the third display screen, but did not provide further explanation or documentary evidence in support of that position.
The ASA noted the “special terms” that appeared in the ad stated “Devices in ’Lost Mode’ or handsets which are reported Lost/Stolen to the carrier are currently incompatible with this service”. However, the ad did not make clear whether the service could be used if the Find my phone service had been activated by a user and we understood one of the display screens featured was the display screen that appeared when a phone was reported lost. Therefore, we considered that consumers would understand the ad in context to mean that if the Find my phone service had been activated and/or a consumer’s phone was lost, a consumer could use the advertiser’s service to remove the activation lock on their phone. We considered the text “If your iPhone is stuck on any of the screens below - you need this service” and the three screen displays, which represented the variety of modes the serviced applied to, added to that overall impression.
We did not consider that the qualifying text was sufficient to override that overall impression.
Because the ad did not make clear the service may not be available if the Find my phone service had been activated by the user and implied the service could be used where a phone was reported lost, we considered the ad was 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) 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 in the form complained of. We told officialiphoneunlock.com to ensure they did not imply their service could be used to remove activation locks on phones where the Find my phone service had been activated or that were lost, if that was not the case.