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

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012 (7:50 am) - Score 736

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.

Leave a Comment
6 Responses
  1. Avatar Kyle

    TalkTalk are prime offenders with this tactic. No longer can they continue to advertise a phone and broadband service for ~20% of its actual price.

  2. Avatar Martyn Dews

    About time too. Many times I have seen potential customers look at the price of packages and not take into account the line rental because it is not prominently displayed. £14.60 per month extra makes quite a difference.

  3. Avatar DTMark

    The irony is that my interpretation of Virgin’s move to force a phone line on people, and to go down this rather backward route, was brought about precisely because of the widespread misleading advertising that had been, and continued to be, allowed; Plusnet strikes me as the most obvious example with it’s “broadband for 3.49” ad.

    • Avatar Bob

      We you need a line to get Broadband whether they should force you to have a voice line is another issue. Maybe VM should introduce a rental charge for a Fibre only line. I gues though VM are trying to keep it simple

    • Avatar DTMark

      Today’s piece of junk mail from BT (we get about two a week addressed hopefully to “The Householder”):

      “Our broadband will be performing at London 2012. Let it perform for you too”

      Leaving aside that no fixed-line broadband services are available at this address, only narrowband ADSL “performing” at one third the speed of my HSPA connection at best…

      “It’s free for the first 6 months then £13 a month after that”.

      OK so a year’s service is £78 if my maths is right.

      But turn it over and in some tiny print on the back…

      It’s an *18 month* contract.

      Add another 14.60 (!!!) for “line rental” which curiously has a *12 month* term.

      And only one payment option is available.

      Hilarious.

  4. Avatar Deduction

    They all do it, BT with their broadband ads and tiny print at the bottom which mentions phone line required, Sky, Virgin, Talk Talk. I think Martyn Dews says it best… About time it was stopped.

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