Carphone Broadband Still Not Free

18 months after a run-in with the Advertising Standards Authority regarding their ‘free’ broadband forever, Carphone have had their knuckles slapped again over their ‘free’ offerings.
 
A brochure ad, for TalkTalk, was headed "FREE Broadband" and claimed " … This year, why not join our Talk3 call plan and get up to 8 Meg (speed depends on proximity to exchange) broadband free!  All you pay is £8.99 per month plus TalkTalk line rental at £11 per month (the same as you’d pay BT)".  

All well and good, you’d think, with our glorious free market. However, BT weren’t too happy.

BT believed the claim "FREE Broadband" was misleading, because the minimum term contract on the pre-existing Talk 3 call plan was 12 months, whereas the contractual period for ‘Talk 3 with free broadband’ was 18 months; the package advertised involved an increased burden on the consumer than that previously offered and was, therefore, classed as a new package of which broadband was an intrinsic, not free, element.

Carphone, in its defence, pointed out that prior to the launch of free broadband with Talk 3, and in accordance with a previous ASA adjudication, they had sought guidance from the CAP Copy Advice team on the ad.  They believed, therefore, the ad was compliant with the CAP Code and ASA guidelines and did not mislead.  They said, apart from this complaint from BT, they received no other complaint.

The ASA concluded that  they had launched a new package of which broadband was an integral part, the broadband element of the new Talk 3 package was not ‘free’ and the ad was likely to mislead – breaching CAP Code clauses 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 32.3 (Free offers and free trials).

Carphone were told to ensure that in future ads or promotions the use of "free" was appropriate, and also advised to seek guidance from the CAP Copy Advice team before making similar claims in future.

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