A TV ad for Sky broadband showed Bruce Willis entering an office to complain about the speed of his current broadband service. On-screen text stated "Sky TV from £21.50 a month. Box and set up costs may apply". Later in the ad, a character said "You could try Sky Broadband, it's totally unlimited ...". On-screen text visible from that point onwards stated "Price for Sky TV customers. Sky Talk & line rental (£14.50 pm) required". The voice-over stated, "Demand more from your broadband. Sky Broadband Unlimited is £7.50 a month, which is less than half BT's standard price". A box appeared containing the text "LESS THAN HALF THE PRICE OF BT".
A viewer challenged whether the ad was misleading, because it did not make clear the extent of the commitment consumers had to make in order to obtain the broadband service at the advertised price of £7.50 per month.
British Sky Broadcasting Ltd, t/a Sky, (Sky) stated that the only commitment a consumer must make in order to obtain Sky Broadband Unlimited was to take Sky Line Rental, which came with an inclusive Sky Talk Weekends calls package, which cost £14.50 per month. They said it was not a requirement for consumers to take Sky TV, but explained that the broadband would cost £7.50 per month for Sky TV customers and £10 per month for non-Sky TV customers. Sky TV prices started at £21.50 per month.
Sky considered that all necessary information about the commitment consumers were required to make in order to obtain Sky Broadband Unlimited for £7.50 per month was made clear in on-screen text displayed at the same time as the price claim in the voice-over. They said that text complied with the BCAP Code because it was clear, prominent and contemporaneous with the price claim. Sky asserted that an average consumer would understand from the on-screen text that, in order to obtain Sky Broadband Unlimited for £7.50 per month, it was necessary to take Sky Line Rental at £14.50 per month and to be a Sky TV customer. They would also have noticed from the on-screen text shown earlier in the ad that the starting price for Sky TV was £21.50 per month.
Clearcast believed that all factors necessary to receive Sky Unlimited Broadband were explained on screen at the same time as the voice-over announced the offer. They said on-screen text "Price for Sky TV customers. Sky Talk & line rental (£14.50 pm) required" clearly stated the commitment required, including the necessity of having Sky TV, in order to receive Unlimited broadband. They stated that an exact price for Sky TV was not quoted at that point because the price varied according to the TV package chosen, but noted that a starting price was given in on-screen text earlier in the ad. The line rental price was fixed and was clearly and prominently stated.
The ASA understood that it was necessary to purchase Sky Line Rental, with inclusive Sky Talk Weekends, and Sky TV in order to obtain Sky Broadband Unlimited at £7.50 per month. We understood that line rental (with the inclusive calls package) and Sky TV could be bought as separate standalone services, and therefore considered that each had a value in their own right, for which some consumers would generally expect to pay. On that basis, those services were not an inherent and inseparable part of Sky Unlimited Broadband and the costs associated with obtaining them did not need to be included in the overall quoted price. However, line rental and Sky TV nevertheless bore some characteristics of a charge for those interested in subscribing to Sky Unlimited Broadband for £7.50 per month. Because of that similarity, and having noted that the ad was not clearly directed at existing Sky customers already paying for Sky TV and line rental, we considered that it was particularly important that the cost of those services was stated prominently in the ad, so as to make sufficiently clear the extent of the commitment required by consumers.
The cost of line rental was presented in on-screen text visible at the same time that the £7.50 price claim was made. However, we considered that small print at the bottom of the screen would by its nature be significantly less prominent than a claim made in a voice-over, and that that was therefore not an appropriate method of communicating material information relating to the £7.50 price claim. We also considered that the cost associated with the TV element of the package being promoted was presented even less clearly to viewers because, although the ad contained text stating "Sky TV from £21.50 a month", that text had been absent from the screen for almost 15 seconds by the time that the voice-over referred to Unlimited broadband at "£7.50 a month".
In order to ensure they were sufficiently prominent, we considered that the minimum monthly price of both Sky TV and line rental should have been clearly communicated together with the £7.50 price claim. Because it was not, we concluded that the ad did not make sufficiently clear the extent of the commitment consumers had to make in order to obtain the broadband service at the advertised price of £7.50 per month, and was misleading.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules
Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Advertisements must not mislead consumers by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that consumers need in context to make informed decisions about whether or how to buy a product or service. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead consumers depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the advertisement is constrained by time or space, the measures that the advertiser takes to make that information available to consumers by other means. (Misleading advertising), 3.10 3.10 Advertisements must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification) and 3.18 3.18 Price statements must not mislead by omission, undue emphasis or distortion. They must relate to the product or service depicted in the advertisement. and 3.23 3.23 If the price of one product or service depends on another, advertisements must make clear the extent of the commitment consumers must make to obtain the advertised price. (Prices).
The ad must not appear again in its current form.