Lawyer: Mrs. Simpson, what did you and your husband do after you were ejected from the restaurant?
Marge Simpson: We pretty much went straight home…
Lawyer: Mrs. Simpson, you are under oath!
Marge Simpson: We drove around until 3AM looking for another all-you-can-eat fish restaurant.
Lawyer: And when you couldn’t find one?
Marge Simpson: We went fishing…
Lawyer: Do these sound like the actions of a man who had all he could eat?
What am I talking about, and why have a started with a quote from a Simpsons episode? Well, because it's the same problem that is affecting the mobile phone industry at the moment, with neither Ofcom or the Advertising Standards Agency apparently bothered that consumers are being lied to on a daily basis every time they sign up to a mobile phone contract.
The frustration, and one that was experienced by Homer Simpson in the episode, comes down to the definition of Unlimited.
In my books and strangely enough in the dictionary Unlimited means:
Main Entry: un·lim·it·ed
Date: 15th century
1 : lacking any controls : unrestricted 2 : boundless, infinite 3 : not bounded by exceptions : undefined
— un·lim·it·ed·ly adverb
However, talk to any mobile operator and the word "unlimited" seems to come with an astrix that highlights caveats or that the term is based on our "fair usage policy".
According to Orange, that "Unlimited" bundle means 750MB of data, far from what the dictionary describes above.
But why isn't the ASA or Ofcom clamping down on these unfair and misleading claims?
When we contacted Ofcom we got the following response:
"As far as I know, this is not something that Ofcom has published anything on".
Not published anything? Really? However they are happy to spend thousands investigating why people buy pirated DVDs on the Internet - surely they just go to torrent sites?
Meanwhile the ASA doesn't believe that mobile operators lying or being quiet about the terms and conditions of a data plan that could, potentially, cost you thousands of pounds over the course of a contract is that much of an issue.
"The ASA does not have guidance on the use of the term 'unlimited' as the ASA position is derived from the Advertising Codes and previous case history (our ASA case law)", an ASA spokesperson told Pocket-lint when we asked them what was what.
"In a nutshell, the term 'unlimited' can be used to describe a service that, if containing a fair-usage policy, will only affect the a-typical user. (i.e. the majority of users will not be affected.)"
So what's the solution?
I believe that mobile phone operators shouldn't be allowed to use the unlimited moniker unless it really is that. As mobile phones increasingly become the gateway to our digital lives on the go we are likely to be consuming more images, more video, more music and therefore more data.
I don't want to sign up to a contract where there is normally a termination fee if I haven't been made aware of all the facts before signing up.
At the moment words like "Unlimited" are nothing more than lies, even if "a typical user" won't supposedly be affected.
Although the ASA might consider "unlimited" an acceptable term for tariffs with data caps or fair usage policies, here at Pocket-lint, we don't. And as such, we are making a stand. We will no longer continue to use the word "unlimited" when the tariff it refers to clearly is no such thing.
We will also be sure to make such caps or usage limits apparent every time we cover news that refers to an "unlimited" deal.