The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint against TalkTalk in relation to a brochure advertisement which advertised "FREE Broadband" and compared it to the costs of a BT service.
The controversy revolves around the contract length. The advertisement states that the calls, broadband and line rental package is subject to a minimum contract term of 18 months. BT complained that the claim of 'free' broadband was misleading because the pre-existing Talk3 package without broadband was only subject to a 12 month contract.
TalkTalk defended their position by setting out that they had changed the terms of the Talk3 package in early 2006 to include an 18 month contract and thus the change that applied to make broadband free was not tied to an extension of the contract term. TalkTalk had consulted the CAP Copy Advice Team on the advertisement and stated that they had not received any other complaints. The promotion in question ended after six months.
"We considered, however, that in order to describe the broadband element added to Talk 3 as "free", [TalkTalk] would have to be able to demonstrate that they had added it as an extra element to an existing product at no extra cost or burden on the consumer. Because the contractual agreement of 'Talk 3 with free broadband' was more onerous than that of its call plan only predecessor Talk 3, we considered that that package should be classed as 'new'. The broadband element was, therefore, an intrinsic element of a new package with an 18-month contract obligation."ASA Adjudication
In its adjudication, the ASA explains that it believes TalkTalk has acted in good faith but it nevertheless found a breach of CAP Codes relating to truthfulness and free offers/trials.