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UPD Sky Scores Small Victory in Ad Battle with BT Broadband’s Free Sport TV

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015 (7:53 am) - Score 811

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld one part of a two part complaint made by Sky (Sky Broadband) against a website advert for BT Broadband’s free BTSport TV content, which was ruled “misleading” because it failed to sufficiently show that the cost of BTSport to Sky Digital (Satellite) customers would rise to £13.50 a month.

Sky complained that BT’s website advert, which promoted the wording “Get BT Sport on Sky for £12 a month or free for existing BT Broadband customers“, failed to make sufficiently clear that the cost of BTSport on the Sky Digital platform was due to rise from £12 to £13.50.

The price rise itself was actually referenced by BT, but as usual the provider hid these details under their separate page that could only be viewed by clicking a link labelled “The legal stuff“.

The ASA ultimately ruled that this wasn’t good enough and banned the claim, although separately we note that BT sometimes also appears to hide other post-contract price changes in the same place.

ASA Ruling (REF: A14-276464)

The imminence of the price rise was material information for all customers. In addition, we noted there may be additional set-up costs involved for those who were not BT Broadband customers. We acknowledged that customers were able to cancel their BT Sport contract with 30 days’ notice, but also understood that information relating to the forthcoming price rise was only given in footnote text under the heading “The legal stuff” up to one month before the new price was introduced.

Considering the potential financial implications and the cancellation requirement for those who did not wish to accept the price increase, we considered that it should be made clear in ads, after a price rise had been confirmed, that it was forthcoming.

To ensure that consumers were aware of all the material information they needed to make an informed decision about whether to take up a BT Sport subscription, the forthcoming price rise should have been given more prominence, by being, for example, linked to price claims in the ad, or stated within the body copy.

Sky also lodged a complaint against both a national press and the website advert for BTSport, which promoted that the TV content was “Still free for existing BT Broadband customers“. The media giant claimed the promotion was misleading because they understood that existing customers, those who had been BT Broadband customers for a longer time than required by their minimum contract terms, had to pay from £12 a month for BT Sport or renew their contract for BT Broadband at the end of their existing term.

But the ASA ruled that because BT Sport was free to BT Broadband customers, and the footnote text provided also explained the requirement for those who wanted to watch via Sky or BT TV to have a minimum of 12 months remaining on their contract, the claim “Still free with BT Broadband” in both ads was “unlikely to mislead“.

UPDATE 10:38am

BT has furnished us with a small statement regarding the ASA’s ruling, which is unusual since ISPs rarely comment on such matters.

A BT Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

BT is pleased that the ASA has ruled that our advertising claim that BT Sport was ‘still free with BT Broadband’ was not misleading.

We note that the ASA upheld a second technical complaint relating to the prominence of the wording informing Sky customers, who do not have BT broadband, about a future price increase for BT Sport on a specific BT.com web page.

We believed that putting this information in a footnote was acceptable, since the increase would not take place for two months and BT Sport can be cancelled with just one month’s notice.”

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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