When NTL was hauled up before the Advertising Standards Authority over alleged lack of clarity on limited broadband availability, they were reminded that they had gone over the same ground with the ASA three years beforehand. Was the result any different this time around?
Advertising Standards Authority and NTL Group
The ASA dealt with a complaint in respect of a direct mailing from NTL promoting its broadband internet access service. This claimed, "It's true! If you are still using dial-up you can get nearly three times faster internet access for just £8.99 for the first three months."
The complaint was that the mailing was misleading because the advertisers could not provide broadband internet services in the complainant's area.
In its defence, NTL pointed out that small print at the bottom of the mailing stated "NTL broadband services are not available in all NTL cabled areas and are subject to availability." It conceded however that in 2002 it had agreed with the ASA to include the statement "To find out if you can get this service, call …" in the body copy of advertisements for broadband. NTL said that in this instance the statement had been omitted in error but argued that it was in any event unnecessary, referring to the fact that other broadband service providers also failed to state in body copy that services were not available in all areas and qualified their offers in small print only.
The ASA took the view that the copy in the ad implied that the advertised service was available to all recipients of the mailing. It was also not persuaded that the small print prevented the body copy from being misleading. Apart from anything else it was simply not prominent enough. Again therefore it asked NTL to ensure that in the body copy of future ads it was stated that the service might not be available to all recipients.
Why this matters:
It is always a dangerous tactic to defend on the basis that others are indulging in the practice complained of and apparently getting off scot-free. Particularly with a targeted direct mailing, it is always a good idea to ensure that the service or product being advertised is readily available to recipients.