Summary of Council decision
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A website for cellunlocker.co.uk, www.cellunlocker.co.uk, seen on 6 February 2018, featured a home page with the claim “Unbeatable Prices Quickest SIM unlock on the internet from only £11.95” and a link underneath labelled ‘View our pricelist’, leading to a page titled ‘Pricelist’ that presented a list of mobile phone networks. Adjacent to each network was the claim “From £11.95”, followed by a button labelled ‘Unlock now’ that led to a page titled ‘Checkout’. On the Checkout page a cost of £11.95 was displayed with the statement “£30 on completion” underneath in parenthesis.
The complainant, who received an email after paying for the service that stated “Please click here to Review our Service! As a thankyou we will refund £3 back to your card if you leave a nice review!”, challenged whether:
1. The quoted “from” price of £11.95 was misleading, because they were charged a further £34.90; and
2. Paying consumers £3.00 for positive reviews meant that the testimonials displayed on the advertiser's website were misleading.
Official iPhone Unlock Ltd t/a cellunlocker.co.uk did not respond to the ASA’s enquiries.
The ASA was concerned by cellunlocker.co.uk's lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 1.7 Any unreasonable delay in responding to the ASA's enquiries will normally be considered a breach of the Code. (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to provide a substantive response to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
The ASA considered that consumers would likely understand the claim "from £11.95" to mean that cellunlocker.co.uk would conduct a significant number of the SIM unlocking procedures that it carried out at a total cost of £11.95.
We noted, however, that once consumers clicked-through from the price claims on the home page and the price list and submitted their IMEI number and phone model, a checkout screen appeared invoicing them for £11.95 with the statement “£30 on completion” underneath in parenthesis. We considered that the information in parenthesis was a non-optional charge, and should therefore have been included in the “from” prices on the home page and price list.
Because it was not, we concluded that the quoted “from” prices were misleading.
On that point, 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), 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), 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. and 3.18 3.18 Quoted prices must include non-optional taxes, duties, fees and charges that apply to all or most buyers. However, VAT-exclusive prices may be given if all those to whom the price claim is clearly addressed pay no VAT or can recover VAT. Such VAT-exclusive prices must be accompanied by a prominent statement of the amount or rate of VAT payable. (Prices).
We considered that consumers would believe that the reviews on cellunlocker.co.uk’s website were genuine expressions of consumer satisfaction with their services.
After paying for the service, the complainant was sent an email stating “Please click here to Review our Service! As a thankyou we will refund £3 back to your card if you leave a nice review!”. Those reviews then appeared on the checkout page of the website. There was no indication on cellunlocker.co.uk’s website that consumers were remunerated for leaving positive reviews. We considered that gave consumers a skewed picture of consumers’ attitudes towards cellunlocker.co.uk’s services, believing them to be generally more positive than they were. For that reason, we concluded that the reviews were misleading.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told cellunlocker.co.uk that they must amend their price claims to include all non-optional fees and charges that would apply to all or most buyers. We also told them to remove all testimonials on their website where the consumer had been remunerated for leaving a positive review.