Given that many of us now use smart phones and tablets as well as laptops on a daily basis, data allowance is now a key factor when choosing an Internet service provider. Most broadband and mobile Internet services providers offer “unlimited” data allowance packages that appeal to consumers and cater for the growing appetite for data consumption.
Consumers are often surprised, however, when they discover that “unlimited” packages are rarely in fact unlimited and are often subject to ‘acceptable’ or ‘fair’ levels of use. The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) has produced a guidance note for consumers on the advertising of such packages and both consumers and service providers alike should inform themselves of its content.
ComReg advises that any provisions of a contract which impose technical limits on the amount of data that can be downloaded should be unambiguous and clearly set out, particularly where the service is described as being “unlimited”. ComReg also expects service providers to implement a clear and transparent policy for dealing with customer usage above the agreed acceptable use, including the penalties and charges to be applied.
In the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority has gone a step further by providing that a service provider of an “unlimited” package may not impose any additional charges on customers who exceed the threshold associated with fair usage. Furthermore, the provider cannot not impose limitations that excessively affect the speed or usage of the service.
Unless and until the UK approach is adopted in Ireland, service providers that offer “unlimited” packages should, at a minimum, adhere to the existing guidance and ensure that any limits imposed on the package are clearly set out for consumers.
Contributed by Brian McElligott.
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