A direct mailing, for a broadband and calls package, was headed "You won't see this price advertised". Text stated "… our award-winning broadband and calls package for £5.25 a month for 18 months". Terms and conditions were printed on the reverse of the mailing.
A consumer, who contacted BT on receipt of the mailing, challenged whether the ad was misleading, because it did not state that the broadband package had a 10 GB monthly usage limit.
British Telecommunications plc (BT) pointed out that the website's landing page for the offer set out the key elements and stated clearly that the monthly usage limit was 10 GB. In addition, their sales agents were expected to make clear the usage limit during the sales process and a mandatory compliance statement was included in their call scripts. Their sales agents were also expected to carry out a 'needs analysis' to make sure that customers were buying the most suitable broadband for their needs in terms of usage limit.
BT said that after point of sale, if a customer found the limit on the broadband they had purchased was too low, they could upgrade at any time to a higher package, and BT would alert a customer whenever they became close to their usage limit.
The ASA noted that the direct mailing, including the terms and conditions, did not refer to a usage limit for the broadband package. We noted that the mailing contained a web address for the offer and that the landing page included information about the key elements of the package, including the usage limit of 10 GB. We understood that BT's sales agents would also make this clear to consumers who telephoned the number provided on the direct mailing. However, we considered that the usage limit for a broadband offer was material information which was likely to affect a consumer's decision to take up the offer and therefore should have been made clear in the mailing itself. We concluded that the mailing was misleading by omission because it did not include that information.
The mailing breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer 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 the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading information) and 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification).
The mailing must not appear again in its current form. We told BT to ensure that, in future, they include material information in their advertising.