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ASA Upholds Tiscali Broadband Advert Complaints

Posted: 03rd Dec, 2008 By: MarkJ
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld three out of six primary complaints by TalkTalk and members of the public against several press, Internet and TV adverts for Tiscali's broadband and voice services. The list of upheld complaint issues has been pasted below:

Complaint:
the claim "up to 8 Mb Broadband" in ad (a) was misleading, because most Tiscali customers could not achieve speeds of 8 Mb and the qualifying text "Top speeds vary significantly ..." was insufficiently prominent.

ASA Outcome - Upheld:
We considered that the speeds achieved by Tiscali 'up to 8 Mb' customers were very close to the line in supporting an 'up to 8 Mb' speed claim, even with a prominent qualification, and as broadband became even more popular and more sophisticated in future, the speeds Tiscali had shown us their customers were currently achieving might not be sufficient to support an 'up to 8 Mb' claim. We were pleased to note, however, that Tiscali intended to adapt and invest to meet customers' requirements in the future, which might enable them to continue to make qualified 'up to 8 Mb' claims. On this point, ad (a) breached CAP Code clause 7.1 (Truthfulness).
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Complaint:
ads (a) and (b) did not make sufficiently clear that the package was available to consumers who lived in certain areas of the UK only.

ASA Outcome - Upheld:
Although we considered it would not be practical for the ads to list all the areas where the product was not available, we nevertheless considered that the non-availability of the package to 48% of UK households was a significant condition and therefore the disclaimer "Subject to local availability" ought to have been given more prominence.
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Complaint:
the member of the public complained that the Internet promotion was misleading, because it did not make sufficiently clear that the headline price of £7.99 was available for a period of three months only, after which the service cost £12.99.

ASA Outcome - Upheld:
We considered that consumers would infer from the claim that package prices started from £7.99 per month, not that the price would increase after some months had passed, and would be both surprised and disappointed to learn that the £7.99 price was for the first three months only.

Interestingly the sixth and separate complaint against a TV advert for Tiscali's broadband services (here) was not upheld despite the issue being almost identical to the first upheld one above:

Complaint:
Eight viewers thought the claim "up to 8 meg super fast broadband" was misleading, because most Tiscali customers could not achieve speeds of 8 Mb.

ASA Outcome - Not-Upheld:
We considered that the speeds achieved by Tiscali up to 8 Mb customers were very close to the line in supporting an "up to 8 meg broadband" speed claim, even with a prominent on-screen text qualification, and as broadband became even more popular and more sophisticated in future, the speeds Tiscali had shown us their customers were currently achieving might not be sufficient to support an up to 8 meg claim, and particularly an "up to 8 meg super fast broadband" claim. We were pleased to note, however, that Tiscali intended to adapt and invest to meet customers' requirements in the future, which might enable them to continue to make qualified 'up to 8 meg' claims.

We investigated the ad under CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading advertising), 5.2.1 (Evidence), 5.2.2 (Implications) and 5.2.3 (Qualifications) but did not find it in breach.

Upholding one complaint against an 'up to 8Mb' claim and not the other, despite using almost identical wording in the outcome text, will certainly have a few readers scratching their heads in bemusement.

More to the point, 'up to' is a recognised and agreed industry-wide practice for stating the maximum possible speed of a connection. It references the fact that broadband services are variable and highly susceptible to issues such as interference and line length.

So why the different rulings? It appears to be a simple issue of communication with the qualification wording "Top speeds vary significantly based on users distance from local exchange.." not appearing prominently enough in the upheld complaint.
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