The home page of www.telediscount.co.uk, an international access number service, featured a box allowing viewers to look up charges per minute to different countries. For calls to Israel, it stated “To landlines 1 pence per minute”.
The complainant challenged whether the tariff was misleading because it did not make clear that callers would be charged additional costs by their telephone service provider.
Finarea SA said that the cost for calling an access number was divided into two parts: the service charge set by the organisation the customer was calling (in this case 1p per minute); and the access charge received by the phone company. They said that to avoid confusion, they featured additional information on their website stating “Your mobile phone provider may charge additional costs for calls to access numbers”. At the beginning of each call, customers would also receive a message stating “Call charges are [x]p per minute, plus network extras”. Finarea believed that this made the existence of additional network charges sufficiently clear to consumers.
The ASA noted that the rate calculator in the top right-hand corner of the web page presented a rate of 1p per minute for calls to Israel. In the absence of sufficient qualification, we considered that consumers would understand this to mean that 1p per minute was the full rate that they would pay for calls to Israel. However, we understood that consumers would incur additional access charges from their network provider. Although the specific charge would depend on the individual customer’s service provider, we considered that the fact that additional charges applied was significant information that needed to be made clear to viewers of the website. We acknowledged that text further down the page stated “Your mobile phone provider may charge additional costs for calls to access numbers”. However, we noted that there was no indication within the rate calculator that this qualification applied to the pence per minute claim, and considered that the qualification was not sufficiently prominent in relation to the claim it qualified. Furthermore, the qualification only mentioned mobile providers, and did not make clear that access charges would also apply when calling from a landline. We concluded that the ad had not made sufficiently clear that network call charges would apply on top of the service charge and that it was therefore misleading.
The ad 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 advertising), 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. 3.10 3.10 Qualifications must be presented clearly.
CAP has published a Help Note on Claims that Require Qualification. (Qualification), 3.17 3.17 Price statements must not mislead by omission, undue emphasis or distortion. They must relate to the product featured in the marketing communication. and 3.19 3.19 If a tax, duty, fee or charge cannot be calculated in advance, for example, because it depends on the consumer's circumstances, the marketing communication must make clear that it is excluded from the advertised price and state how it is calculated. (Prices).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Finarea SA to ensure that stated service charges were accompanied by sufficiently prominent qualification that made clear that consumers would also pay an access charge to their mobile or landline network provider.