ASA rules on Lebara Mobile

ASA bans Lebara Mobile ‘unlimited’ ads after complaints

The UK’s Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) upheld six complaints against Lebara Mobile after misleading ads promised ‘Unlimited International calls for just £10.’

In October 2017 a leaflet and website campaign for Lebara Mobile featured the offer of Unlimited International calls for £10 but on the website’s ‘Terms & Conditions’ it stated, “where a plan has unlimited minutes, these are subject to fair usage policy.”

Six complainants challenged whether ‘unlimited’ in both ads was misleading.

Caps or no caps?

In response to the complaints Lebara said they had applied a cap on their service in a bid to regulate fraudulent attempts that may arise from the illegitimate use of unlimited calls.

They claimed that this would be a far better method than monitoring customers as a potential fraudulent threat. They explained that when a customer reached the cap they would be suspended from the service and charged the applicable standard rates.

Lebara said they now intend to remove the cap and update their terms and conditions.

ASA upheld the complainants ruling that the feature of the service described as unlimited was not in fact unlimited and as a consequence was misleading.

They also ruled that where there was a Fair Policy Usage the restrictions should be considered to be reasonably modest.

We understood that Lebara applied a cap on usage in order to regulate illegitimate use of unlimited calls and that customers who reached the cap were suspended from service and charged the standard rates for calls.

We considered merely exceeding a particular level of usage was not enough to render a user illegitimate. Furthermore, we considered consumers would not expect an ‘unlimited’ call service to suspend users from service once they had reached a usage cap.

- ASA: Ruling statement on Lebara Ltd

ASA has now ordered Lebara to remove both ads in their current form and to no longer describe the service as ‘unlimited’ if additional charges apply or if there are usage restrictions imposed.

With a turnover of more than £450 million Lebara’s pitch is selling cheap international airtime to tourists and economic migrants entering the UK. You can find their staff hanging round airports, accosting travellers with their products.

The firm sells SIM Only deals by piggybacking on Vodafone’s mobile network in the UK.

The international calls business has long been dogged by claims of misleading advertising and hidden charges. According to Ofcom customers using international calling cards actually received just 28% of the voice minutes advertised.

Despite the controversy Lebara has won industry awards for its services, having been voted the best ‘virtual’ operator for seven consecutive years in the annual Mobile News awards.


A veteran freelance journalist writing extensively on internet news and cybersecurity.
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