Wikipedia founder's TPO Mobile cleared over 10% charity claim

Wikipedia founder’s TPO Mobile cleared over 10% charity claim

The Advertising Standards Authority has cleared SIM Only firm TPO Mobile of any wrongdoing after a user complained about its claim that 10% of profits go to charity.

TPO, also known as ‘The People’s Operator’, is a London-based virtual operator which piggybacks on the Three network for call signal and data.

While not as well known as rivals GiffGaff or iD Mobile, it has Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales on its board of directors.

TPO claim on their website that Wales compares their company to Wikipedia: “Just as Wikipedia grew virally as communities wanted to work together to liberate knowledge, so I believe TPO will grow in a similar way as communities work together to support good causes across the globe.”

TPO has a social responsibility scheme to pay 10% of customers’ bills into charities of their choice.

People can state which charity they want to give to – or not – when they sign up for a 30-day rolling SIM Only contract. Good causes include homeless charity The Big Issue Foundation, Jessie’s Fund, which provides instruments to disabled children, and overseas aid foundation Street Child Africa.

But one user complained to the ASA after seeing an advert on student website The Tab, challenging TPO to prove that they really could give “10% of your monthly bill to a charity of your choice at no extra cost to you”.

TPO Mobile were able to show the ASA in detail why there was a difference between the sales they made and the amount their official annual reports said they had donated to charities.

Only half of their customers opted in to donate to charity, said TPO, backing up the claim with daily customer orders, invoices and cheques addressed to charities.

The evidence TPO Mobile provided showed that they designated 10% of a customer’s bill to be donated to charity.

They also provided copies of cheques and online banking statements which showed that they regularly donated to chosen charities.

Because we had seen evidence which demonstrated that TPO Mobile had donated 10% of bills to charity for customers who had opted to do so, we concluded that the ad was not misleading.

- Ruling: Advertising Standards Authority

TPO Mobile was founded in east London in November 2012 before launching in the US on the Sprint network.

Jimmy Wales joined the board in January 2014 and spoke on the company’s behalf at the Digital Life Design conference in Munich.


Tom is a tech journalist and Editor at
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