ASA Adjudication on Fasthosts Internet Ltd
Fasthosts Internet Ltd
154 Southgate Street
16 May 2012
Internet (on own site), Magazine
Computers and telecommunications
Number of complaints:
Summary of Council decision:
Four issues were investigated of which two were Upheld and two Not upheld.
The website ad (a) on www.fasthosts.co.uk and two magazine ads (b) and (c) in industry facing publications, made several claims about the advertiser's online services.
Heart Internet Ltd challenged whether:
1. the claim "Best UK spec" in relation to virtual servers on the website ad (a) and in ad (b) was misleading and could be substantiated;
2. the claim "RESELLER HOSTING ONLY £19.99pm" on the website (a) was misleading, because it did not make clear that that price was an introductory rate for 12 months only;
3. the claims "industry leading range" in relation to web hosting solutions in ad (a), "INDUSTRY LEADING TECHNOLOGY" in relation to virtual servers and dedicated servers in ads (b) and (c) respectively and "Industry leading power & performance" in relation to dedicated servers in ad (c), were misleading and could be substantiated; and
4. ad (b) misleadingly implied that the specification listed was available at the lowest price of £26.99 ex VAT.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
1. Fasthosts Internet Ltd (Fasthosts) stated that they were confident that their services were superior to those of other suppliers and they provided a table which compared aspects of their service with three of their competitors. They believed that their platform and hypervisor technology provided customers with a superior virtual private server (VPS) experience, which included automatic failover and recovery, large scalable architecture and excellent support and service-level agreements (SLAs).
2. Fasthosts said the £19.99 price for the reseller service was a one-month contract only and that the customer could close their account at any time with no further obligation. They said they had made changes to the home page to make it clearer that it was a one-month contract, but that the purchase page which consumers were directed to had always contained all details and minimum terms.
3. Fasthosts said they replaced their dedicated servers every 18 to 24 months to ensure the latest technology was being used and that in between server updates the hardware they deployed for shared hosting was also high end.
4. Fasthosts said there were two items that were not included in the £26.99 price. They pointed out that the "Plesk control panel to run multiple websites" had been described as "optional" in the body copy and that "Resource monitoring with email & SMS alerts*" had been linked to text that stated "SMS usage alerts service is available from £3 per month & limits apply". They believed it was clear from the ad that those two features would not be included at the £26.99 price.
The ASA considered that consumers would interpret the claim "Best UK spec" in ad (a) to mean that Fasthosts' virtual servers had a higher overall specification than those available from all other online services providers in the UK. We noted that the comparative table provided included the specification of virtual servers offered by three of their competitors only. Because we had not seen evidence that demonstrated Fasthosts offered the best specification virtual servers in the UK, we concluded that the claim had not been substantiated and was misleading.
On this point, ad (a) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.11 (Exaggeration) and 3.38 (Comparisons).
2. Not upheld
We noted that the reseller hosting was sold on a monthly contract and that the advertised price was available to consumers for a maximum period of 12 consecutive months. Although we understood that the price would increase after that period, we noted that consumers could cancel their agreement at any time. Because consumers were entitled to take advantage of the advertised price for up to a year and were not obliged to maintain their account at the higher monthly rate at the end of that period, we considered that the higher rate, which was explained on the purchase page one click away from the home page, was not sufficiently significant to warrant inclusion on the home page. We therefore concluded that the claim was unlikely to mislead.
On this point, we investigated ad (b) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.9 (Qualification).
We noted that Fasthosts had said they updated the technology they used regularly. However, we considered that consumers would interpret the claims "industry leading range", "INDUSTRY LEADING TECHNOLOGY" and "Industry leading power & performance" in ads (a), (b) and (c) to mean that the web hosting, virtual servers and dedicated servers provided by Fasthosts used the latest technology on the market and that that technology was not being used by any other online services provider in the UK. Because we had not seen evidence that demonstrated that was the case, we concluded that the claims had not been substantiated and were misleading.
On this point, the claims in ads (a), (b) and (c) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.11 (Exaggeration) and 3.38 (Comparisons).
4. Not upheld
We considered that the two aspects of the service that were not included at the "from" price had been qualified, either in the body copy or in linked text at the foot of the ad, in a manner that made clear they would be available only at an additional cost. Because we considered that consumers would understand what was included at the £26.99 price, we concluded that the ad was not misleading.
We investigated ad (b) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Qualification) and 3.22 (Prices).
The claims "Best UK spec", "industry leading range", "INDUSTRY LEADING TECHNOLOGY" and "Industry leading power & performance" in ads (a), (b) and (c) must not appear again in their current form. We told Fasthosts not to make "best" or "industry leading" claims unless they held the necessary substantiation.