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ASA Upholds Virgin.net Complaint

Posted: 02nd Aug, 2006 By: MarkJ
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint against an advert for ISP Virgin.net's £14.99 per month broadband service. The complainant found the ad misleading because it failed to state that there was a £50 fee if the service was cancelled within the first 12 months:

The ASA noted it was possible to use the Virgin.net service on a month to month basis without the need to sign up to a minimum-term contract. We considered, however, that the claim "Get broadband without the commitment" alongside "No 12 month contract" implied customers would be able to cancel their account without any obligation. We considered that the fee for cancellation within 12 months, which was equivalent to over three months' service use, was a significant obligation. Although we noted and accepted that not all banner ads included, or needed to include, all terms and conditions, we considered, because this banner ad gave the impression that customers would be able to cancel their account without any obligation, it was misleading.

We considered that the cancellation fee was extremely likely to influence customers' response to the offer and, therefore, should also have been clearly stated in the banner ad itself. We understood Virgin.net were willing to make clear that terms and conditions applied in future, similar banner ads, but asked them furthermore to ensure they made clear that, although customers would not be committed to a 12-month contract, a cancellation fee applied. We advised them to seek guidance from the CAP Copy Advice team before issuing similar advertising.

The ad breached CAP Code clause 7.1 (Truthfulness).

There are a number of ISP's that now utilise cancellation fees, often as a somewhat covert replacement for supposedly "free" activation or setup charges.

Much like Virgin.net, few choose to publicise this charge outside of their T&C's. Now provider's will also have to include it in their advertising lest they risk the wrath of the ASA (*giggles*).
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