Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A TV ad for Sky Broadband, seen on 18 February 2017, featured the Lego Batman character. The voice-over stated, “There’s another hero in town. Super-fast Sky Fibre … It’s the UK’s lowest priced fibre including line rental. And even better it’s an exclusive deal for our TV customers. Add just £20 a month for 18 months … And with our new dedicated Sky Broadband tech team you’ll get the best customer service in town … So grab the UK’s lowest priced fibre including line rental. An exclusive deal for our TV customers. Search Sky Fibre. Sky believe in better.” The ad included small print on-screen text at the bottom which stated “Lowest price over 18 months. Compare prices at Sky.com/lowestpricedfibre. Selected Fibre areas only. Check your speeds at www.sky.com 25GB usage cap. New 18 month contract for Sky TV (from £22) and Sky Broadband. Terms apply. Ofcom Quality of Customer Service Report (Jan 2016)”.
The ASA received three complaints:
1. two complainants, who were unable to read the on-screen text, challenged whether the ad was misleading; and
2. one complainant, who understood that Sky’s ‘lowest price fibre’ product had a monthly data usage cap but that they also offered a higher price product with no usage cap and that only two of the 32 products compared to Sky's basic fibre product had usage caps, challenged whether the price comparison in the ad was misleading.
1. SKY UK Ltd t/a Sky said they believed the on-screen text was legible.
Clearcast said they checked the on-screen text and it exceeded the guidelines for size and duration and the minimum duration and height for superimposed text set out in the relevant BCAP guidance note.
2. Sky said they compared against every 38 Mb or 76 Mb product on the market, with the most basic calls package, and that these comparisons were listed in the PDF document accessible on their website. They said the basis of this comparison was solely price and they believed their claim would be understood to be a comparison based on price. They said if a competitor did not sell a capped product (only unlimited) then they were only able to compare to unlimited products but wherever possible they compared to capped products. They said irrespective of this, usage caps were immaterial to the comparison as the comparison was based solely on price. They said they believed Sky Fibre met the same needs and was intended for the same purpose as unlimited services.
Clearcast said they believed that the claim was not about speed or usage limits, but pricing. They believed when a consumer was comparing different broadband packages in order to select the best one for their needs, there were various factors which might influence their decision.
They had asked the advertiser to provide full market data in support of their claim offering the lowest-priced fibre/line rental package. They believed the advertiser had substantiated that they had the cheapest offering on the market (when prices were calculated over the 18 months of the advertised contract). They believed that if a consumer was looking to select their broadband package based primarily on pricing, they would not be misled by the advertiser’s claim.
The ASA noted that the on-screen text set out significant terms and conditions and considered that it contained material information. We acknowledged that the text exceeded the size, height and duration requirements of the relevant BCAP guidance. However, it appeared against a very light background and the shadow surrounding the text did not make it sufficiently distinctive. The background consisted of rapidly moving images some of which had cut across the text, and there was other larger on-screen text and colour changes that together drew attention away from the small text at the bottom of the screen.
We considered that the on-screen text did not present the qualifications clearly and that consumers were therefore likely to miss material information contained in the on-screen text. We therefore concluded that the ad was misleading.
On this point the ad breached the 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) and 3.11 3.11 Qualifications must be presented clearly.
BCAP has published Guidance on Superimposed Text to help television broadcasters ensure compliance with rule 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. . The guidance is available at:
The ASA considered that, in the absence of information to the contrary, consumers would likely understand from the claim ‘lowest priced fibre’ that the lowest price claim was based on a comparison between broadly equivalent fibre broadband products.
We understood, however, that Sky’s product had a monthly data usage cap of 25 GB, while 30 of the 32 comparator fibre products offered unlimited broadband. We considered that the products generally met the same needs and purpose, as they were all broadband products. However, we considered that consumers would regard a capped broadband product as materially different (and inferior) to an unlimited broadband product, and therefore that was a significant limitation that needed to be made clear in the ad.
While the ad had included a qualification in the small print, which stated the product advertised was a capped product, the qualification did not reference the fact that nearly all the comparator products offered unlimited broadband.
The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form. We told Sky UK Ltd to ensure significant qualifications were clearly presented in their advertising.