A further update for you all today. I've just had a quick chat, and it appears we're making progress towards our preferred solution for data use on Goodybags. At this point in time, we continue to see a similar pattern to the start of the year where just 1% of people are using upwards of 40% of the total data used each month. This is a similar pattern to that seen by other companies, and both 3 and T-Mobile have been either using or trialling measures to reduce the amount of data used by their heavy data using customers.
LIke other companies, we will need to implement some form of traffic management policy. What we are currently aiming for is to have a policy that will still allow you to enjoy an unlimited data plan - however, this is not certain yet as discussion is still ongoing. Any policy we propose to implement will be open and transparent, so there should no longer be any concerns over what is and isn't allowed. Alongside this we are working on improving our ability to detect and manage tethering (which is not allowed on Goodybags), detect and manage peer-to-peer and file sharing activity, and also increase data efficiency of video streaming. In all of this we are looking to make sure that the impact on you as a user is kept to a minimum.
Thanks again for your patience as we work through this reassessment phase and prepare our plan for the future.
Some of you may be aware that we have been having a very involved discussion with some of our community members on the way data is being used on our network. This is a follow up on that discussion in terms of what people have said and what we have discussed internally here at giffgaff.
The premise is this: giffgaff includes unlimited mobile internet on our goodybags (£10 and over).
The problem is this: Less than 1% of users use more than 30% of all data and we would be reasonably safe, saying these people do not use this data for mobile phone use. And the vast amount of data used by these members distorts our total data cost, making giffgaff unsustainable.
Our view is: The 1% are using their giffgaff internet connections for things that the product was never intended for. (For a full and detailed explanation of what we mean by normal mobile usage see our suggestion for Ts&Cs below. Appendix point 1)
IE. The people in this 1% are downloading files, either tethered or transferred off their mobiles later, or streaming video from their mobile phones to TV’s, downloading everything that’s on iTunes, to listen to on other devices outside of their mobiles or anything else you can think off, that basically means that the use was either never intended for use on a mobile or only partly (as examples: downloading of more music than could ever realistically fit on your phone, or a need to download and watch HD quality movies on a mobile device or stream video content for more than 8 hours a day are all either not intended for mobile use or can be considered a highly unlikely usage pattern).
The result is: We are removing the internet connection from those people who use it in such an excessive way that we can be 99% sure that they are using it in a way that was never intended for mobile use.
(Although of course we do make mistakes, but are always open for a discussion on it)
Some of the feedback is this: giffgaff can’t say they offer unlimited mobile internet if there are restrictions
We say: This is possible as long as people use the product as it was intended. Ie. Ensure the use is for your mobile phone. (see appendix point 2)
Our question to you is (option 1): Do you trust us to deal with the less than 1% that we can reasonably say are not using their data connections for the intended use on their mobile? And are you happy for us to disconnect them?
This helps us manage total data usage by managing a few users in private.
The result being: We all (the community and giffgaff) deal with the fall out from the 1%, but we retain the ability to have unlimited internet as a shout and (more than 99% of you) retain the use of it and normal behavioural spikes continue to never be an issue.
Or (Option 2):
Would you rather we made more public rules for everyone on how and how much you can use on your mobile device on giffgaff. This means managing the total data usage by all users in public.
The result being: In all likelihood a Fair Use Policy for all which defines how much data everyone can use and how you are allowed to use it, with the caveat that if you go over or if you ever use it in a way not explicitly defined an immediate bar would likely be the result (or extra charges). There would be less fall out with this as the rules are much simpler to communicate and enforce.
Our view: We do not want to go the FUP way, as we feel that is the easy way out, which all networks have chosen. Giving a blanket cap on usage is a cheap solution to a difficult problem and affects 99% of the members negatively, whereas we feel we have the right tools to determine if people are using our service incorrectly and so do not have to implement such a crude form of curbing behaviour.
Your view: Please let us know.
Please find additional information below:
Q: Why do we not say how we use our tools or what we look at?
A: If we do that we give the 1% more information to avoid our detection
Q: I never worried before, but now I know you look at behaviour I worry that I might get barred.
A: Don’t worry. It is highly unlikely you fall into the (less than) 1% of people who we would pick up on their behaviour. If you’ve been on giffgaff a while and never heard from us in terms of your data use, it is unlikely you ever will.
Q: I've seen some cases in the community about people being barred without having been warned. I heard that people are meant to be warned before any bar?
A: There are two different messages we send out depending on the circumstances. We can contact some people to remind them of our T’s&C’s when we feel their usage isn’t inline with our policies. This does not however always necessitate or precede a bar. The other message we send out is after we’ve placed a bar, as we often have to act swiftly to ensure the negative impact people have who are hammering the network is not felt overly long by the rest of the members or the network. In these cases the member always has the right to question our decision and we investigate these on a case by case basis.
Our proposed T’s&C’s:
5.13. In addition to our standard terms and conditions, all usage must be for your private, personal and non-commercial purposes.
By purchasing a ‘goodybag’ you are agreeing that you are using your giffgaff SIM card in a mobile telephone handset, which must have the capability to make voice and texts on our mobile network, and that all data usage will be exclusively for and on this device - with no connection of any kind to any other device.
You may not use your SIM Card;
b) in such a way that we believe adversely impacts the service to other giffgaff customers;
c) for excessive amounts of streaming or downloading;
d) for peer-to-peer activity
e) to connect to any device other than your mobile handset. For example you cannot connect to TVs or computers via dongles, wirelessly or in any way (unless you are on a gigabag plan).
We reserve the right to bar your SIM, reduce your data speed or remove your goodybag if we believe you are breaking this clause or if we believe your usage and data speeds exceed what is possible for mobile internet use specifically on a mobile handset.
Traditionally and arguably from a consumer view point, a FUP normally applies to a limit of volume. This is why we have made the distinction between an Abuse policy and a fair use policy. Abuse means, illegal, affecting of customers (bad stuff) and Fair use, means volume (limiting customers from using a service), we are well within our rights to be able to do this, as for one, we have a more detailed definition than is required by the ASA. Most importantly we do not advertise that we do not have a Fair Use policy, so from a ASA view, we are not breaking any regulations.
The tricky part comes from the fact the ASA have called it 'Fair use' and we say we don't have 'fair use'. In reality the ASA could have called it 'Abuse policy' or 'usage policy' or 'illegal use policy' etc...the important thing is that by our own definition, (and a more specific definition than the ASA) we are within the ASA definition of 'unlimited' and this is supported by our T&C's (currently and also by the improved versions).
And so, we are 'legally' allowed to use the word 'Unlimited' in advertising. Advertising includes all aspects of advertising (both on/off site), onsite copy, communications to our base, etc.
We have checked and we are legally in a position to use 'unlimited'. In short, according to the ASA, you can take action against 2% of your base who are breaking any of your Terms & Conditions, be that a traditional FUP (volume) or an Abuse Policy (as per giffgaff) which limits devices, illegal use, etc.
Proposals for guidance on the use of “Unlimited” claims in telecommunications advertising 26/01/11
The ASA’s Present Policy
2.4. The ASA allows advertisers to claim that a service is “unlimited” when it is subject to a FUP provided that the existence of the policy is stated in the advertisement* and the policy is fair and reasonable, i.e. it must affect only atypical users. The precedent originated in ASA adjudications on advertisements for fixed line services and was applied subsequently to mobile telephony and data services, as technology developed.
2.5. To demonstrate that the FUP affects only the atypical user, advertisers must provide data (to the ASA) on the usage profile of their customers for the relevant service. Taking complaints on a case-by-case basis, the ASA has found it acceptable for a telecommunications service to be described as “unlimited” where up to 2% of users transgress the limits set by its FUP. The ASA has not investigated a complaint where the proportion of customers breaching an FUP was greater than 2% and has therefore not found an advertiser in breach of the Codes on the grounds that their FUP was not fair and reasonable.
2.6. The ASA’s position on “unlimited” claims is, arguably, a pragmatic one. It acknowledges the need for service providers to protect their networks and it recognises that the overwhelming majority of customers will be unaffected by the FUP. As a consequence, the departure from the literal meaning of the claim has until now been tolerated.
*Some companies use an asterisk when in relation to volume, we use, ‘T’s & C’s apply’ in our advertising.
The first thing to note is that the ASA have rules over what we say in advertising (only). In short, any limitations on usage on a product called 'unlimited' they claim it has a 'Fair use policy', this includes, excessive use, illegal use, speed limiting etc. Why have they done this? Because it is easier for them to lump everything together then split them out into more technical specifics between abuse and fair use. The ASA, (rightly or wrongly) make broad brush strokes of regulations, which leave many grey areas. Excerpt below;
2.2. Providers impose Fair Usage Policies (FUPs) as a tool to manage network resources. They have several purposes, principally:
␣ Managing network resources at certain times. For instance, some FUPs involve throttling heavy users’ speeds to ease congestion at peak times.
␣ Monitoring accounts for illegitimate usage. For instance, business use of a consumer service or the practice of ‘sim boxing’.
␣ Ensuring that a small minority of extremely excessive users do not affect the integrity of their networks to the detriment of other users.
2.3. In practice, FUPs tend to involve a limit above which usage is considered by the provider to be unreasonable. However, the sanctions employed by different providers for exceeding a limit vary significantly in their actual impact on users. Some providers operate a relaxed approach, merely monitoring breaches or reserving the right to take action. Others, however, engage in practices such as charging for usage in excess of the limits established under an FUP.
To reiterate, according to the ASA, you can take action against 2% of your base who are breaking any of your Terms & Conditions, be that a traditional FUP (volume) or an Abuse Policy (as per giffgaff) which limits devices, illegal use, etc.
And so, we are able to use the word 'Unlimited' in advertising. Advertising includes all aspects of advertising (both on/off site), onsite copy, communications to our base, etc.
**Update: 15th Feb, 14:44**
As this discussion has been very involved and very fast moving, we still want to give people a chance to voice their opinions.
As a result, we'll be closing this part of the discussion at 11pm this coming Sunday (the 19th of February), and taking its contents for discussion here.
**Update: 24th Feb**
Just as a quick update as to where we are.
Having locked this discussion early this week, we've collating together the final pieces of feedback and suggestions from the thread. With over 3,000 responses and what's looking like almost 1,000 participants, there's been a lot of stuff to write up and look at - even though we've been keeping record as quickly as we could while the thread was active.
We are currently aiming to review the results next week, and will come back with an update after this by the end of next week as to what will be happening next.
**Update: 13th March**
We've finished compiling the thread information (a little later than anticipated - my apologies for this), and have a meeting this week on this again to discuss the results.
From this meeting, there'll be a series of next steps. We can't confirm precisely what they'll be at this stage, but they will certainly involve going away and doing some work on our side. This is because we need to prepare a discussion where we can discuss the results together, along with potential next steps and options.
We know this has been a point of discussion in the community, so we want to keep everyone updated. At the same time, the above does take time as a process, and We'll update this thread as often as we are able with new information as a result.
**Update: 17th April**
Firstly, I can appreciate that people are wondering where our update is. We are going for in the next couple of weeks we hope.
We're sorry for the delay in update over the last month. There have been a combination of factors behind this - what we have been doing is continuously working on this. There have not been any updates to share just yet, but we'll update even if we have no news in the coming weeks.
Having bought together the opinions of those who participated, the amount of suggestions made needed to be explored. This required consulting a bunch of different people and avenues, us scratching our heads for extra ideas and seeing how and if we could make many of your ideas work.
There have also been us checking some things on the legal side (nothing conspiracy theory inducing - this is normal process for a lot of discussions we have). The legal part tends to be the final piece of the puzzle, and the part that takes most long in anything. This is what we're waiting on currently.
I hope this gives a bit more insight into the time delay on reply here. We're hoping that we'll be in a position to run through this in the coming couple of weeks - as we're at the final stage (we hope) before we can run through this now.
**Update: 18th July**
It has been a little while since we last updated you on the Unlimited Data situation - sorry about this but as I am sure you can all imagine there is a lot to review, test and discuss before putting anything forward. So in an effort to be open and transparent with you all, I wanted to give you an update on where we are at right now.
As most of you are aware, the ASA received a small number of complaints from some of our customers about how we are barring users from the service for breach of our terms and conditions. We have been working with the ASA over the past few weeks to ensure what we are doing is fair to all and we expect a final answer from them in the next few days.
With regards to the unlimited data we offer, this is something we absolutely want to ensure we continue to provide and on top of that, continue being great value for money. However, as the average amount of data people consume increases at a steady rate and the cost to giffgaff isn't decreasing, this means a lot of wider discussions had to take place on our offerings.
The last thing we want to do is remove unlimited, increase prices or impose restrictions on usage. However, with everything that has happened, we have to do something. So, we have been reviewing the following:
Tethering - while it is already against our terms of service, we are looking at systems that can improve our effectiveness at automatically detecting and blocking tethering use for Unlimited Internet plans.
Traffic policies - We will continue to explore methods which will ensure the majority of our users have a good level of service during times when the network is very busy.
Product testing - we are currently in the process of testing different portfolio alternatives for giffgaff. Our main objective is to understand how potential prospects & current members would respond to a wider variety of alternative data products.
So as you can see, there are a few things being reviewed. With the growing rate of data usage per member, it's clear we have to implement something. But we want to stress that no matter what we roll out, we want to continue providing a great service to those who are using data legitimately.
These are all still in plan/review stage though and we hope to have a more concrete plan by next month which we will update you on. Ideally we will be looking to roll out whatever plan we decide on by the end of October.