ASA rule that phone line rental prices must be included in ads
The ASA have revisited a previous ruling they have made in relation to adverts by Virgin Media which saw the company fail to mention in some instances the cost of phone line rental alongside bundle prices when there was a requirement for customer to take the phone line rental. Eighteen complaints were raised against the ads, and although the wording of the assessment and actions section has changed, the decision to uphold the complaints continues.
A further reaching impact of this ruling is now in place which will require industry to adapt their advertising practices which will require line rental costs to be displayed clearly alongside the most prominently placed pricing, with 3 months to bring marketing material in to practice.
"We understood that some consumers purchased line rental as a separate standalone service, for receiving incoming calls only, and therefore considered that line rental had a value associated with it in its own right, for which some consumers would generally expect to pay. On that basis, we considered that line rental was a non-optional, conditional service, as opposed to a charge with no intrinsic value which formed an inherent and inseparable part of the advertised bundled products, and did not need to be included in the overall price.
However, because line rental had some of the characteristics of a charge, we considered it was particularly important that its cost was stated sufficiently prominently. The line rental cost was not presented clearly alongside the most prominently stated bundle prices in ads (a), (b) and (c). In light of that, we considered that the ads did not make sufficiently clear the extent of the commitment consumers must make to obtain the advertised bundles and were therefore misleading."ASA ruling
Whilst pricing clarity should be welcomed, there are some uncertainties about how this will be implemented. Some providers offer line rental at a reduced price if you pay for a year in advance which could lead to providers listing "Phone line rental required, from £9.50 a month" when standard line rental actually costs £14.50 when paid monthly. It's also not clear what broadband providers who do not offer line rental alongside their services should do as the line rental is a prerequisite to the service.