The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has reprimanded BT for advertising broadband and home phone bundles the telecoms company said were available “free for six months”. In fact the line rental payment of £14.60 per month was payable from the first say of the contract, only the £13 a month broadband fee was waived for six months.
A BT print advert under scrutiny offered “The UK's most complete broadband package” which was said to be “free for six months” to new customers. The advert continued its headlining message; “Then just £13 a month, plus your line rental at £14.60 a month.” However small print on the advert read as follows; “Offer ends 10/01/13. For new BT broadband customers only that sign up for an 18 month minimum term and pay BT line rental of £14.60 a month (rising to £15.45 on 05/01/13).”
BT’s TV advert was also found to be misleading, promoting the broadband package as costing “just £13 a month plus £14.60 for a BT line. And now free for six months.” Many people assumed the line rental was part of the “free” aspect when it was not.
Complaints to the ASA were as follows;
- One complainant, who understood that line rental was payable during the first six months, challenged whether the claim "Free for six months" in ad (a) was misleading.
- One complainant, who understood that line rental was payable during the first six months, challenged whether the claim "free for six months" in ad (b) was misleading.
- One complainant, who understood that the line rental would increase to £15.45 in January 2013, challenged whether the claim "£14.60 for a BT line" in ad (b) was misleading.
Complaints number 1 and 2 were upheld by the ASA. Complaint 3 was rejected “because the date and amount of the price increase was made clear in the on-screen text”.
BT admitted that its adverts could have been clearer. The company “believed the ambiguity was an unintended consequence of their attempts to comply with a recent ASA adjudication, relating to another telecoms provider, regarding the prominence of line rental”. This ruling asks ISPs to state costs of line rental clearly alongside broadband prices.
What’s going to happen to BT?
Not very much is the answer. The ASA has ruled that both the print and TV ads under scrutiny “must not appear again in their current form.” Also the regulator wrote in its report that BT must make clear “the extent of the commitment consumers must make to take advantage of “free” offers in future.”
How BT used to make ads in the 1980s