A website and Facebook post for 1pMobile, a mobile phone service provider, seen on 7 January 2017:
a. The website, www.1pmobile.com, stated “Great value and service … UK’s cheapest pre-pay tariff”.
b. The Facebook post stated “1pMobile isn’t just the UK’s cheapest pre-pay mobile service - it’s the most flexible too”.
The complainant challenged whether the claims “UK’s cheapest pre-pay tariff” in ad (a) and “UK’s cheapest pre-pay mobile service” in ad (b) were misleading and could be substantiated.
Telecommunications Management Ltd t/a 1pMobile said they believed that their tariffs of 1p per minute to UK landlines and mobiles, 1p per text to UK mobiles and 1p per MB of data were the lowest in the pay-as-you-go and pre-pay market. They said that the nearest competitor that they were aware of, based on all comparison websites, charged 3p per minute for calls, 2p per text and 1p for each MB of data. 1pMobile said that their “flexible” claim was based on a £5 top-up which could be used for all calls, texts and data, compared with their competitors who specified a cap on each of those features which was usually less than 500 units for each element, if not all. 1pMobile also provided a website which they said was an independent list of all pay-as-you-go UK tariffs.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand the claims “UK’s cheapest pre-pay tariff” in ad (a) and “… the UK’s cheapest pre-pay mobile service” in ad (b) to mean that 1pMobile’s charges for calls, texts and data were the lowest priced on the market and could not be purchased for less from any other retailer across the UK .
We acknowledged the comparison website which 1pMobile provided, comparing UK pay-as-you-go (PAYG) tariffs. However, because we understood that within the mobile telecommunications sector, prices fluctuated frequently and the website information contained comparisons, sometimes two to three months apart, which meant we could not verify the price comparisons at the time the ad was seen. We therefore did not consider that this information was adequate to substantiate the claims made.
We noted 1pMobile’s assertion that they described their tariff as “flexible” because unlike them, their competitors specified a cap for each £5 top-up. However, we did not consider that this was clear from ad (b) which would have different meanings among consumers. Nevertheless, we considered that most consumers would understand that a top-up would last for one month unless otherwise stated. Furthermore, we understood that consumers were likely to select a tariff which closely met their mobile usage requirements – for example, a higher or cheaper text message allowance over calls or data if that was their preferred method of communication. With that in mind, we understood that other mobile phone PAYG providers offered a £10 top-up which although their call minutes and data were capped, the text allowance was unlimited. Therefore, on a pro-rata basis those providers could be cheaper than 1pMobile depending on how the allowances were used.
Because 1pMobile had not provided adequate evidence to support their claims to be the cheapest mobile service and that other providers were cheaper on a pro-rata basis, we concluded the ad was misleading and had not been substantiated.
The ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.17 (Prices) 3.33 and 3.34 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told 1pMobile not to claim that they were the UK’s cheapest pre-pay mobile service or had the cheapest tariff, in the absence of adequate substantiation.