ASA Ruling on Windsor Telecom plc
Windsor Telecom plc
50 West Street
4 January 2006
Computers and telecommunications
Objection to an e-mail for telecommunications services. Text in the subject line stated "0845 local rate numbers with no call charges". Text in the e-mail stated "Get an 0845 local rate phone number from Windsor Telecom ... Your customers pay the local rate call charge from anywhere in the UK". The complainant, who believed calls to 0845 numbers were often more expensive than local rate calls, objected that the claims "0845 local rate" were misleading.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
Windsor Telecom said they had not intended to mislead readers; they said they had described their 0845 numbers as "local rate" in good faith and based on information received from Ofcom. They pointed out that when Ofcom had allocated their 0845 numbers, they had described them as "local rate"; they sent a link to an Ofcom document, headed "The National Telephone Numbering Plan", which described 0845 numbers as "charged ... at BT's Standard Local Call Retail Price ... ". Windsor Telecom believed the description of 0845 numbers as "local rate" was standard industry practice and were concerned that removing that description from their advertising would unfairly disadvantage them; they said they wanted to wait for the outcome of Ofcom's consultation with the industry before changing their advertising.
We noted, at the time the numbers were allocated by Ofcom, all the major telephone service providers described 0845 numbers as "local rate" in their marketing communications. We accepted that, because Windsor Telecom had continued to apply that description in good faith, they had not intended to mislead readers.
Notwithstanding that, we noted the recent migration of most BT customers still on BT's Standard tariff to the "BT Together option 1" tariff, which did not distinguish between calls made to local and national destinations. Because most UK callers now paid more for calls to 0845 numbers than for calls to geographic local destinations, we considered that the description "local rate numbers" for 0845 numbers was misleading and likely to confuse consumers. We noted Ofcom was still in a process of consultation but, because the CAP Compliance team had issued an ad alert telling marketers not to describe calls to those numbers as "local", we told Windsor Telecom to stop describing 0845 numbers as "local rate" and to include a clarifying statement about the likely cost of the call. We advised Windsor Telecom to seek help with the pricing statement from the CAP Copy Advice team.
The ad was found to be in breach of CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation) and 7.1 (Truthfulness).