A sponsored search ad stated "0844 800 0040 sky.customerservicesuk.com Phone Customer Services Dial Direct Contact Number. TV, Broadband, Billing & Support". Smaller, light coloured text, which appeared beneath a "Call" button in the bottom right-hand corner of the ad, stated "(Additional charges may apply)".
The complainant challenged whether the ad misleadingly implied the phone number provided was for Sky customer services, which was free for Sky customers, whereas he was charged for the call.
Search Me said they provided a directory call connection service to commonly called customer service numbers, which was an internet version of traditional connection services. However, premium rate numbers were not used but 0843 and 0844 numbers that cost 5 p per minute from landlines. They said their website made clear they were not in any way affiliated to the service provider consumers would be contacting and the phone numbers were advertised in an easy to find convenient place to allow people to get in touch with Sky directly.
They believed the cost of calls did not need to be stated, because they did not use premium rate numbers however their website stated that they were "5ppm". At the time of the complaint, the official Sky customer service number cost exactly the same from a BT landline and therefore consumers would not have paid more than if they had called Sky directly. They said that the Sky customer service number was still being advertised. They used "call" buttons where they were offered by search engines. The text that appeared beneath the button was also provided by the search engine, as was the framework for the ad. However, premium rate numbers were not accepted via that call extension service. They said there was no capability to provide further information using the call extension facility and the service was aimed at mobile phone users, for whom call charges would vary. Search Me said they were not currently using the ad or business model in the UK.
The ASA noted it was not clear from the ad that a call connection service was being offered and considered it implied the number and "call" button provided would allow consumers to call Sky direct. We noted that the only information in the ad, related to the potential cost of calls, was provided by the search engine and not the advertiser. Nevertheless, we considered that "(Additional charges may apply)" was not sufficient to make clear that Search Me offered a call connection service not associated with Sky or the cost of calls made via its service. We understood it was free for Sky Talk customers to call Sky customer services via their landline and therefore considered it was particularly important that the nature of the service and the associated costs were made clear in the ad; this should in any case have been made clear to all consumers. Because that was not the case, we concluded that the ad was 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) and 3.43 3.43 Marketing communications must not take unfair advantage of the reputation of a competitor's trade mark, trade name or other distinguishing mark or of the designation of origin of a competing product. (Imitation and denigration).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Search Me Ltd ensure their future ads made explicitly clear that they offered a call connection service and the cost of calls made via it.