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Virgin Media and Relish ads banned following complaints from BT

Wednesday, December 10th 2014 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has made rulings on complaints made by BT about four other telecoms providers.

The regulator has told Virgin Media and Relish to remove ads but complaints about Sky and TalkTalk were not upheld.

The rulings are the latest in a long line of complaints service providers have made about each other and come weeks after Cable.co.uk was told the tit-for-tat advertising battle would destroy consumer trust.

BT made three complaints about five national press ads and the Virgin Media website which promoted limited time offers.

The ads were for a number of half-price deals and other offers including Virgin’s Starter Collection at £10 a month for six months, then variously £18 or £20.

BT challenged whether this was misleading as it understood new customers had not been charged the higher reference prices in the previous nine months.

It said the ads were also misleading because Virgin had extended previous offers relating to the Starter Collection and because the use of the words “offer available until at least…” did not make the closing dates clear.

Virgin Media said the higher prices had been paid by a number of customers and so those reference prices had been established, but the ASA said this was for a 12-month contract when the advertised offer related to a minimum 18-month term.

'Red hot sale'

The regulator also found that statements such as “cut out and call today”, “half price for 6 months” and “red hot sale” would lead customers to believe the offers were for a limited time.

The ASA said the use of the phrase “offer available until at least…” was ambiguous and did not make it clear how long consumers had to respond to the ad.

“We told Virgin Media Ltd to ensure ads did not mislead consumers about the time limited nature of advertised offers,” the ruling stated.

“We also told Virgin Media to ensure that closing dates were made sufficiently clear and to ensure that savings claims were not likely to mislead consumers.”

BT made four complaints relating to a press ad promoting fibre broadband supplied by Relish and a table on the Relish website comparing it to other home broadband providers.

BT said the claim “delivered to your home or office in central London” was misleading but the ASA said Relish had demonstrated its network was widely available in the area.

Misleading claims

The ASA found that advertising home and business broadband from “just £20 per month” was misleading as Relish’s business broadband starts at £25 a month, but that the omission of a £50 device charge for a rolling monthly contract was not.

It also said Relish’s comparison of its products to those of other providers was misleading.

“We told Relish to ensure they made the basis of their price claims clear,” said the ASA ruling.

“We also told them to ensure they made any significant differences between their own and stated comparator products clear in their future advertising.”

BT questioned whether regional press and TV ads promoting free Sky Broadband Unlimited to Sky Sports customers were misleading, as existing customers were expected to re-contract on an extended 18-month minimum term not previously offered.

It also complained about a TalkTalk ad offering a free YouView box to customers signing up to an 18-month contract.

The ASA said both offers were conditional-purchase promotions. Such items can be described as ‘free’ under the CAP (Committee of Advertising Practice) Code as long as consumers know what costs they are liable for.

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