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ASA Ban Misleading “FREE” BT Sport TV and Broadband Bundle Adverts

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015 (8:28 am) - Score 948

Several members of the public and Sky (Sky Broadband) have succeeded in getting the Advertising Standards Authority to ban a press, website, poster and TV ad for BT’s various TV and broadband bundles, all of which claimed that BTSport was “free” even though there were caveats and contradictions galore.

At this point most of our readers will probably be aware that subscribers to BT’s broadband, TV and or mobile services can usually get the BTSport Lite content at no additional cost, while the BTSport Pack (this includes live EU sporting events) tends to add an extra £5 per month to your service charge.

Most of the related adverts thus made mention of BTSport being free. The press ad (B) was headlined “BT Sport EUROPE Free with BT TV“, while further text added “Our BT Broadband customers can watch BT Sport Europe for free.” The website promo (D) similarly stated “Get your BT Sport Pack FREE /mth with BT TV TV PACKAGES” and the poster ad (E) was headlined “Watch the UEFA Champions League for free” and smaller text stated “Every game live, free for our BT TV customers“.

Finally the TV advert (F) included some small on-screen text shown near the beginning of the ad, which stated that BTSport was “Free for existing BT TV customers when you re-contract TV & BB for 18 months.” Both the poster and TV advert mentioned the need to re-contract for 18 months.

However Sky and several members of the public challenged whether the claims that BTSport was “free” were misleading, because consumers often had to either re-contract, or take a new contract, to obtain it.

The final ruling is quite long and difficult to summarise, but broadly speaking the ASA agreed that some of the adverts incorrectly made it seem as if the BTSport Pack was “FREE” when in fact it was not because customers needed to re-contract or take an additional service etc. In other cases some important details about the promotions had not been included or were contradicted.

In addition, the ASA also banned an email update (C) from BT because the promoted BTSport bundle price of £19.99 did not include the additional cost of the customers’ existing HD package, which was also due to increase to £4 per month on the same day as the new BTSport price change.

ASA Ruling (REF: A15-306755)

We again considered that despite the on-screen reference to a minimum line speed requirement, ad (f) did not make clear to entirely new customers that they also needed to have BT broadband, the length of time for which they were required to contract to broadband or any additional costs.

In addition it was not clear that existing BT broadband customers would need to re-contract for broadband in addition to taking a TV contract. For those reasons, we also considered ad (f) did not make the clear extent of the commitment each of the different categories of consumers needed to make to take advantage of the free offer.

Because, aside from in relation to existing BT TV and broadband customers in ad (e), the ads did not make sufficiently clear the extent of the commitment consumers would need to make to take advantage of the free offer, we concluded that they were misleading.

On that point, ads (b), (d) and (e) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Qualification) and 3.23 (Free). Ad (f) breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 and 3.2 (Misleading advertising), 3.10 (Qualification) and 3.25 (Free).

As usual the ASA told BT that it had been a very naughty boy and not to re-print the adverts in their current form. The watchdog also told BT to ensure that their future ads “made clear the extent of the commitment consumers must make to take advantage of a free offer and that price claims were not misleading, and were not contradicted.”

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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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