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BT and TalkTalk Censured Over Broadband Adverts

TalkTalk and BT used misleading broadband adverts, according to the latest ASA ruling

On by Tom Jowitt 0

The contentious issue of misleading broadband advertising has reared its head once again after BT and TalkTalk were officially reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

BT was singled out for its advert that appeared in both print publications and TV, headed “the UK’s most complete broadband package. All singing, all dancing”. Complaints centred over BT’s claims that the carrier’s broadband and home phone bundles were available “free for six months”.

BT Ruling

The ASA upheld the complaints, because BT did not made it clear in the wording that a line rental fee was payable from the start of the contract.

“The ASA considered that the claim ‘Free for 6 months’ followed by ‘Then just £13 a month, plus your line rental at £14.60 a month’ in ad (a) implied that for the first six months nothing was payable, and that after this period customers would have to pay £13 a month plus £14.60 line rental,” said the ASA in its adjudication.

“We also considered the claim ‘And now free for six months’ preceded by ‘All for just £13 a month plus £14.60 for a BT line’ in ad (b) implied that for the first six months nothing was payable, and that after this period customers would have to pay £13 a month plus £14.60 line rental. Because the line rental was in fact payable from the start of the contract and this was not made clear in the ads we concluded the claims were misleading.”

The ASA rejected a complaint that the quoted line rental fee of £14.60 would increase to £15.45 in January 2013, saying that it was up to customers to make an informed decision, particularly as the contract was for eighteen months.

“BT agrees the press ad for ‘the UK’s most complete broadband package’ and the TV ad that offered ‘BT broadband and calls – free for the first six months’ could have been clearer to show that ‘free for the first six months’ did not include line rental,” admitted BT in a statement to Techweek Europe.

“The ambiguity was an unintended consequence of our efforts to amend all our advertising quickly to comply with an ASA adjudication relating to another telecoms provider about the prominence of line rental,” it added.

TalkTalk Ruling

Meanwhile another ISP, this time TalkTalk, was also taken to task over its advert for the YouView IPTV service.

BT challenged TalkTalk over the advert, which appeared in October 2011. The press ad stated “Britain’s best value unlimited TV broadband and phone … FREE YouView box, usually £299.” BT challenged the claim that the YouView box was “usually/normally £299″, as it felt it was misleading and could could not be substantiated, because the YouView box had only been available to purchase for six days when the press ad was published, and seven days when the claim on TalkTalk’s website appeared.

The ASA said it in its adjudication on the matter that it did not considered that six/seven days was not a sufficient period of time for a “generally sold at” price to be established.

“Because we considered that the product had not been available to purchase for a sufficient period of time to show that the product was normally or usually sold at £299, we concluded that the ads were misleading,” it concluded.

Misleading Adverts

In both cases the ASA said that both BT’s and TalkTalk’s advert should not appear again their current format.

But the latest rulings comes amid an ongoing sea of complaints and rulings over advertising claims.

Last week for example, the ASA shut down BT Infinity’s online coverage checker, after it emerged that the tool provided false information on installation dates and areas covered.

TalkTalk was likewise slapped over the wrists last year when the ASA told the ISP it had to revise its broadband speed checker after a complaint that it was misleading customers by overestimating download speeds.

Virgin Media, along with most other ISPs and mobile operators in the UK, has also faced censure from the ASA over its advertising claims.

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Tom Jowitt
Author: Tom Jowitt
Freelance TechWeek Reporter
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