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ASA UK Advert Ban Stops ISPs Excluding Line Rental from Broadband Prices

Wednesday, Jul 4th, 2012 (7:50 am) - Score 738

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has today given UK ISPs three months to adapt after a revised ruling against Virgin Media banned the provider, and all others, from separating out the cost of compulsory phone line rental in their broadband bundles.

The situation came about after 18 people complained that a press, circular and TV advert for Virgin Media’s various bundles only stated the cost of the broadband service, which the ASA deemed to be “misleading” because Virgin Phone Line Rental (£13.90 extra per month) was compulsory but its price had not been included.

For example the TV ad, which featured sporting star Usain Bolt sitting at a desk and talking to the camera, included a voiceover message that said, “Right now, with Virgin Media, you could enjoy up to 30 Mb fibre-optic broadband and calls, for just £5 a month“. The ad did state “Virgin Phone line required” but failed to correctly include its price. Many broadband ISPs use a similarly confusing tactic.

ASA Assessment (REF: A12-186186)

We understood that some consumers purchased line rental as a separate standalone service, for receiving incoming calls only, and therefore considered that line rental had a value associated with it in its own right, for which some consumers would generally expect to pay. On that basis, we considered that line rental was a non-optional, conditional service, as opposed to a charge with no intrinsic value which formed an inherent and inseparable part of the advertised bundled products, and did not need to be included in the overall price.

However, because line rental had some of the characteristics of a charge, we considered it was particularly important that its cost was stated sufficiently prominently. The line rental cost was not presented clearly alongside the most prominently stated bundle prices in ads (a), (b) and (c). In light of that, we considered that the ads did not make sufficiently clear the extent of the commitment consumers must make to obtain the advertised bundles and were therefore misleading.

The advertising watchdog clearly recognises the significance of its revised ruling, which will affect broadband and phone bundle promotions across the sector, and has thus given ISPs until 4th October 2012 to “bring their marketing communications in to line with the requirements of the adjudication“.

As a result ISPs will now be required to ensure that the line rental cost is presented clearly alongside the most prominently stated bundle prices.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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