An online video for Plusnet plc, seen on Plusnet's YouTube page on 13 August 2015, referred to the features of the service they provided to customers, including satisfaction levels with customer service compared with other providers.
A complainant, who believed the basis of the comparison was flawed, challenged whether the claim "That's why they [Plusnet] have more satisfied customers than Sky, Virgin and TalkTalk" was misleading and could be substantiated.
Plusnet plc said the claim related to the results of a monthly survey comprising 4,500 interviews of adults in Great Britain by a large market research provider. The survey covered attitudes to services supplied by a range of communication providers and asked respondents about their overall level of satisfaction with their provider as well as satisfaction with contact and value for money. Plusnet believed that an average customer, when asked about their satisfaction level, would take into account the product provided, the price and customer service, and that the most relevant question they could be asked related to their overall satisfaction with the brand. Plusnet noted that the survey had placed them ahead of their main competitors every month between August 2014 and August 2015. Plusnet also listed the awards and recommendations they had been given in 2015 for value for money and quality of customer service.
The ASA noted that the ad showed a woman using a laptop and phone at home. At the point where the voice-over referred to being let down by customer service and “binning the router”, the exasperated woman held the phone away from her ear, then slammed the laptop shut and threw the router into a waste basket. In that context, we considered the reference to dissatisfaction with customer service would be understood as customer service in relation to the broadband service, as provided by Plusnet and the other companies listed in the ad. We noted that all Plusnet's packages included broadband and that all their customers would therefore be broadband customers. However, that was not necessarily the case for the other providers being surveyed. We considered, therefore, that the survey needed to compare satisfaction levels of broadband customers in relation to their broadband service and needed to take into account customers who had had reason to contact their provider regarding that service. We noted that, included in the data Plusnet had supplied, were comparisons in which all the customers surveyed were broadband customers and in which all had had reason to contact their provider regarding their broadband service. We noted that each monthly survey had looked back over the preceding 12 months. For broadband customers who had had reason to contact their provider, the survey period went back to April 2014 (January 2014 for all broadband customers). For each month, in each survey, Plusnet had been shown to have had a higher percentage of customers who were very or extremely satisfied than the other providers listed in the ad. We therefore considered that Plusnet had supplied adequate evidence for the claim.
We investigated the ad under 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), 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation) and 3.33 3.33 Marketing communications that include a comparison with an identifiable competitor must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, the consumer about either the advertised product or the competing product. (Comparisons with identifiable competitors), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.