Mon | Jan 30, 2023

OUR clarification on ‘unlimited’ plans

Published:Saturday | December 3, 2022 | 12:06 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

The Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) takes note of Mark Trought’s letter to the editor published in The Gleaner of Monday, November 28 on the use of the word “unlimited” in the advertising of certain offers to customers by the two major telecommunications (telecoms) providers.

The OUR, being mindful of the concerns about the lack of clear information by telecoms providers, issued a set of decisions in 2020, which are contained in a document titled Improving Information Transparency in Telecommunication Markets – Determination Notice.

One such decision addresses the need for clearer pricing and framing information in advertisements. This OUR directive stipulates that there must be accurate and full information on the service being offered to telecoms customers. In addition, telecoms providers must ensure that where there is a challenge to provide details of their products or service within the advertisement space, they must indicate where customers can access more information. Such access must be free of charge to the customer.

Utility consumer safeguards were also included in the OUR document. Among them are that the information provided to customers must include any limitation that may apply in the use of the services. Further, telecoms providers are mandated to automatically send usage notification alerts – at no cost to the customer – indicating the level of service allotments that have been used. These alerts must start at 60 per cent used, then at 80 per cent and finally, at 100 per cent (exhausted).

In addition to the OUR’s regulatory initiative, we also note that the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) – which reviews matters pertaining to misleading advertising, among other functions – had addressed this issue on several occasions. In 2019, the FTC warned telecoms consumers to be particularly vigilant when the word ‘unlimited’ is used in advertisements and encouraged them to obtain full information from their telecommunications service providers on the details of calling plans prior to purchase.

While it is not within the OUR’s purview to dictate the wording in the advertising messages emanating from the telecoms providers, the applicable standard is that such messages must be unambiguous. Since this matter has been again brought to the fore, we use this forum, and by other formal means, to remind telecoms providers of the need to adhere to all of OUR’s requirements.

By this means, we remind customers as well that where they find that there is no clarification on what ‘unlimited’ means, nor any provision where they can get more information on this, they can contact the OUR’s Consumer Affairs Unit at consumer@our.org.jm.

GORDON BROWN

Public Affairs

Coordinator, OUR