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ASA UK Ban TalkTalk Broadband Ad After BT Moan of Misleading Sale Price

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 (7:50 am) - Score 1,072

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has sided with an interesting BT complaint against a press advert for TalkTalk’s SimplyBroadband package, which complained that a “half-price” offer of £1.75 per month was “not a genuine sale price” because the standard price of £3.50 had not been used for long enough.

The ruling, which could have implications for other ISPs that make similar discounts, appears to touch on the issue of what we call ‘furniture store sale tactics‘ and follows a similar complaint that was upheld against Virgin Media last year (here). In essence, if a package has been subject to repeated discounts that run for long periods then it eventually becomes difficult to identify the true ‘standard’ price.

In this instance BT pointed to how TalkTalk’s press advert was making the following offer: “12 MONTHS HALF PRICE Totally Unlimited Broadband … Was £3.50 Package now only £1.75 a month.” BT felt as if this was misleading because it was “not a genuine sale price“, which seems to be largely due to so many similar discounts coming before it for the same package.

ASA Ruling (Ref: A14-277849)

The ASA considered consumers would interpret the claim “Was £3.50 Package now only £1.75 a month” to mean that £3.50 was the usual selling price of the package at the time the ad appeared, meaning that TalkTalk had reduced the usual price by half and customers could benefit from a £1.75 saving.

While we acknowledged TalkTalk provided details of the price of the product over one year, and that it had varied between £1.75 and £3.50 during that time, because we understood pricing within the telecommunications sector fluctuated regularly, we considered the product’s more recent pricing history was most directly relevant to the usual selling price.

While the package had been priced at £3.50 for 18 days immediately prior to the half-price promotional period, it was priced at £1.75 for approximately the preceding two and a half months. We therefore considered £1.75 was the usual selling price of the product at the time the ad appeared. Because the ad was likely to be understood to mean the usual selling price was £3.50, whereas that was not the case, we concluded that it was misleading.

As usual the ASA banned the advert in its current form and told TalkTalk to “ensure they were in a position to substantiate future savings claims likely to be understood to represent the usual selling price of a product“.

A quick check of TalkTalk’s website today shows that their SimplyBroadband package is now at £1.75 per month for the first 6 months (half-price vs the £3.50 ‘standard’ price), yet before that it was on a 12 months free promotion. Tricky. It’s worth noting that BT also complained about TalkTalk’s “Half Price Superpowered Fibre” offer, although the ASA found no fault with that one and BT’s complaint was rejected.

In fairness the big ISPs all deserve some praise for managing to avoid the gaze of ASA officials, at least since the start of this year, which is in stark contrast to previous years where not a week seemed to go by without at least one provider suffering an ad ban. Perhaps our article on 2014’s worst advertising offenders in the broadband ISP market has had a small impact (here).

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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.
Leave a Comment
8 Responses
  1. DTMark says:

    Rather than the advert getting as far as the press or TV, and a complainant appealing to the ASA..

    Wouldn’t it be a good idea if the ASA reviewed all ads before they go live, even if just the TV ones, did their checks, and approved or failed them there and then so that it didn’t get that far in the first place? This one strikes me as being a particularly easy one to check.

    I’d have thought that would be quite effective, since the entire ad campaign would then have to go back to the drawing board before it could be used in any form, costing the advertiser money before a single customer is attracted by it.

    1. dragoneast says:

      And why would the industry agree to that one? Or do you have a blind faith in the honesty, good judgement, intelligence, impartiality and integrity of politicians to control everything they don’t already? Good luck with that one. I do admire their ability to fool us, every time, though.

    2. Mark Jackson says:

      Consider how many adverts exist across the United Kingdom, from both small and large businesses, charities and individuals alike, and then consider the work force required to check through each of those.. it would be a costly nightmare. An example of how too much bureaucracy creates excessive complications and delay.

      Having said that, perhaps one penalty for repeat offenders could be to enforce a stricter review process. Note also that some adverts, such as those which go on TV, are usually pre-vetted by companies like Clearcast (ASA approved) and yet this doesn’t always work.

    3. DTMark says:

      Considering TV only – aren’t there only about 30 different adverts these days, a significant bulk of which are for gambling and another significant section of which make either no verifiable claim, or a very easily checkable one.

      OK, it’s probably more than that. But it doesn’t strike me as a particularly massive task to watch an ad, note the claims, check them (Email: “When did you start advertising at the higher price, and when did the offer start”) and move to the next one?

      If that’s what ‘Clearcast’ do, how did they miss this one?

      Maybe only put ads through the review process if the advertiser has flouted the rules before, perhaps – good compromise.

      At the moment I’m seeing no penalty for false advertising.

  2. GNewton says:

    Most of the advertised broadband proces are false these days anyway. There is no such thing as “free” or “low-priced” or “half-priced” broadband, these “low” prices are clearly subsidised from e.g. hiked line-rentals etc. There is no such thing as a free lunch!

    Also, this is the same ASA which doesn’t even know what fibre-broadband is.

    The whole UK broadband market is a farce, scrap the BDUK, replace ASA with the competent agency!

    1. Al says:

      What does BDUK have to do with it, whilst BDUK is not without issues they are dealing with the rollout of FTTC/P to the less commercially viable areas.

  3. “scrap the BDUK, replace ASA”

    Unfortunately would only work as well as when we kick out one government in the hope that the next one will be better! 🙂

  4. sonny parmar says:

    talktalk false advert, under tv, broadband calls, press it , then at top corner press talktalk customers then scroll down to

    12 months HALF PRICEPlus TV, broadband, calls & mobile SIM

    Free Mobile SIM worth £90 as standard
    Series link on 70+ Freeview channels
    YouView+ box included (usually £299)
    Pause, record and rewind 200+ hours
    NEW! 7 Sky entertainment channels
    7-day catch up on your TV
    Switching is easy, your current TalkTalk service won’t be interrupted
    We’ll carry over any boosts you currently have to your new package
    Now ONLY a 18 month contract

    Check Availability

    Find out more

    FREE Fibrewith Plus TV for only £9.25

    a month for 12 months + £16.70 monthly line rental

    this deal ia a lie The free fibre is not inclued , only for six months not the 12 as it says on website. please check this out. another false sales.

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