False Advertising in the UK Mobile & Broadband Market

It has always irked me that the carriers in UK Mobile market claimed “unlimited” data when their products are far from unlimited (usually a 500 Mb monthly cap). Something ought to be done about the unfair advertising, or more and more people are going to be facing slowed data throughputs at the end of their 30 day cycle. Now that I’ve been shopping around for broadband, I’ve noticed this false advertising also affects broadband in the UK. While it is true that the increased competition offers lower prices and more features in terms of broadband availability, they all tend to generally advertise “unlimited” plans, while the small print talks about a data cap (generally 5 – 10 GB), after which the provider can slow your available bandwidth.

Lately though, I’ve noticed that some carriers are trying to move away from this (O2 doesn’t seem to have the word “unlimited data” on their home page and it took me a while to find the words “unlimited data an downloads on the Orange website, but find it I did). I attribute this to Three UK promoting it’s One plan, which apparently has “true” all-you-can-eat data. T-Mobile, however takes a different approach on their iPhone page. The wording on this page, under the title “No scary data charges” says, “But we won’t charge you any extra if you go over your limit. And, we’ll always let you browse and email, even if you’ve reached your data limit for streaming videos and downloading files”. Vodafone’s advertising on their website is perhaps the clearest of all – they offer different “web packs” that subscribers can buy, but even the best of those has a paltry 500 MB limit.

Also, why do these companies complicate things with Boosters (T-Mobile), Bolt-Ons (O2), Animal Plans (Orange) and Freebees (Vodafone)? And while I loved the Orange Wednesdays when I used them (2-for-1 cinema tickets), isn’t it just an extra cost that they can pass on to the consumer in terms of lower prices? I wouldn’t stick with Orange for these deals, I moved my number the moment I realised their 3G service was awful.

What prompted this rant? My search for a good broadband provider, now that we’re moving flat’s and need to get our own service. We’ve been using our landlord’s Sky broadband service so far, and while it’s been decent, there are definitely times when I know they’re throttling me down.  And what does Sky’s broadband page say? There are 2 plans, the first with a ridiculously low 2GB monthly data allowance. The second one, while claiming to be “unlimited” has a soft cap of 40GB and is subject to network management policies. And oh, I need to sign a 12 month contract. BT is even worse, with an 18 month contract required and the “unlimited” broadband that is capped, but their T&C don’t mention what the cap is. Forum poster seem to claim it is 100 GB, which is decent, I suppose. I can’t seem to find any information on whether BT Vision usage (IPTV) contributes towards this cap, but it shouldn’t.

Anyway, rant time over and some good news: I was very pleasantly surprised at the very decent BT customer service when I ordered a new phone line at the flat we’re moving to. It was set up fairly quick and when I had to make a change to the activation date, it was done without any fuss at all. I was quite impressed. And with regards to the broadband I finally ended up singing with? BE Broadband – apparently the only UK ISP with no caps or any traffic shaping policy.

Note: Tesco mobile (I’m currently employed by Tesco) adverstises “unlimited” web and data on their pay monthly sim only plans, while the paragraph below that says “fair use policy applies” and states the montly data allowance is 500 Mb (yes, with a lower case “b”, meaning megabits.) *sigh*