As it turns out, Circles.Life’s “Unlimited WhatsApp” feature is not actually unlimited
And we're not even talking about video calls yet.
When it first started out, Circles.Life looked to many of us trapped in the drudgery of uncompetitive telcos like a breath of fresh air.
No contract? Yes!
Very affordable ($28) basic month-to-month plan? Yes!
$20 upgrade for 20GB of data? Heck yes!
This attractive feature definitely helped as well — unlimited usage of WhatsApp.
It’s advertised prominently on the landing page on their site, for instance:
And indeed, how nifty — caller ID thrown in for free too.
When we click “Find out more”, here’s what we see — Unlimited WhatsApp again! Right there, the first “plus option”.
This time, it’s got two asterisks accompanied in superscript, though:
And the red arrow points to the condition in fine print: “Does not include video calling.”
Now, in fairness, WhatsApp video calling is a fairly new feature — rolled out officially on November 14, 2016:
And predictably, it does take up significant swathes of data, as would any function or app that uses online video.
So, okay — that’s what they say. Unlimited use of WhatsApp except for video calls. Fine.
This implies free usage of:
– Photo sending
– Video sending
– Gif sending, and also,
– Voice calling.
Also, in case there is any doubt, here’s the Google dictionary definition of “unlimited”:
“Not limited or restricted in terms of number, quantity, or extent”. Okay.
So now that’s clear, let’s tell you what happened to one Winston Ong, who received the following email from Circles.Life:
And all of a sudden, there is something known as “the 1 GB/mo limit stated in our Fair Usage Policy”.
“Excess usage beyond our Fair Usage Policy of 1 GB /mo will be charged $6 /GB.”
Wow, new information. We decided to dive into the Circles.Life terms and conditions to see what they said.
Roughly halfway down the very long page of fine print, hidden under the “Additional Features and Services” section:
“unlimited, free of charge, Text Messages, Video clips and Photos via WhatsApp”.
–> So actually ah, their terms and conditions don’t even cover voice calls, although strangely, the email to Ong says it does include them.
And check out the second part we underlined: “subject to our Fair Usage Policy (FUP)”.
Okay, so now to find out what exactly this Fair Usage Policy is — this turns out to be another section in the fine print; a very long one at that.
Here’s the relevant extract nonetheless:
Now, there’s more than you might realise to take in in the underlined paragraph above. Let’s break it down for you:
1) Under Circles.Life’s policy, there is a 1GB monthly cap on usage under WhatsApp.
It says “if you use more… there may, without prior notification, be disruption to the free WhatsApp service.” In other words, if you exceed 1GB in data usage, strictly on WhatsApp, you will be charged.
2) You’ll be charged $6 per extra GB used… rounded to the next higher GB.
This means that even if you use 1 KB beyond the 1 GB limit, you’re going to be charged an extra $6. Never mind that you actually only used, say. 1.01 GB. Because the “excess consumption will be rounded off to the next higher GB in order to calculate the excess GB amount”.
And here’s a bonus thing we discovered under this Fair Usage Policy, that certainly isn’t advertised, much less easily accessible:
3) If you use too much data, your connectivity speed will be reduced.
The first paragraph says that if you exceed 55GB in data usage for a given month (bill cycle), “we may, without any prior notification to you, impose a speed limit… until the end of the applicable bill cycle”.
The third paragraph says that even if you signed up for unlimited data, you can’t run away — if you’re assessed to have “excessive data usage”, you’ll also have your speed curtailed till the end of each day.
It gets worse for these unlimited data customers too:
“We may impose a credit limit per Customer depending on our assessment of the customer risk profile. In the event your monthly usage exceeds your credit limit, we may block your use of any and all Service(s) without prior notification to you until the end of the affected bill cycle.”
And sure enough, in response to Ong’s protest post on Circles.Life’s Facebook page, here’s what their customer representatives said:
Citing the fair usage policy, that’s fine. But watch what their reps tell another guy who comments on the post:
Anne’s comment (the first Circles.Life reply) declares that sans video calling, “the 1 GB fair usage is more than enough for your communication needs as long as you don’t use the video calling feature”.
Until, of course, Ong responds in the third comment. Their response? The same reason cited in the fair usage policy again.
You have been warned, Circles.Life users, and all thinking of jumping to Circles.Life.
You can see Ong’s Facebook post here:
Here’s an article you should check out next:
Top photo: Screenshot from Circles.Life website