Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Not upheld.
A national press ad for TalkTalk Telecom and an ad on their website, www.talktalk.co.uk:
a. The national press ad stated "Hello TalkTalk Customers - Have you got your FREE YouView box yet? ... Claim your YouView box today". Small text at the bottom of the page stated "... 18 month min term (24 month min term for existing Essentials customers) & conditions apply ... Customers entitled to a free YouView box, worth £149. If you already have a Set Top Box & do not want our FREE Set Top Box we will be unable to process your order online, please call the sales team on [0800 number]. £100 charge may apply for your YouView box if you leave during your min term".
b. Text on www.talktalk.co.uk stated "Essentials TV includes ... Free YouView Box (usually £149).
1. BT, who understood that customers on an existing 18-month contract would need to extend their contract to 24 months to receive the YouView box, challenged whether the claim in ad (a) that the YouView box was free was genuine.
2. A member of the public challenged whether the claim in ad (b) that the YouView box was "free" was misleading.
1. & 2. TalkTalk considered they had established that the YouView box was free with all their TV packages as a conditional-purchase offer. They said that, when they began offering a TV service in 2012, customers were either completely new to TalkTalk, in which case they joined on an 18-month minimum term, or were already on a broadband and calls package and wanted to add TV, in which case they signed a 24-month contract. TalkTalk believed, therefore, that the contract lengths were long established and had not been adjusted to make up for the "free" YouView box offer. They said it was possible to take the offer without the YouView box and that customers paid the same price regardless. They supplied sales data from the preceding month which showed that a significant minority of customers chose not to take the YouView box. The YouView box could also be bought from TalkTalk's website as a stand-alone item, separately from a TV package.
1. & 2. Not upheld
The ASA considered TalkTalk's offer was a conditional-purchase promotion. The CAP Code allowed an item to be described as "free" in a conditional-purchase promotion as long as customers were aware of all the costs they were liable for; the quality or composition of the paid-for items had not been reduced; and the price of the paid-for items had not been increased to recover the cost of the "free" item.
We noted BT's belief that because, to take advantage of the offer, an existing customer needed to extend their contract to 24 months whereas new customers joined on an 18-month contract, the price of the package was therefore increased for existing customers and the YouView box could not be described as free.
The information supplied by TalkTalk showed that, while most customers had taken the YouView box as part of their package, the package could also be bought without the YouView box, the cost was the same in either case, and the YouView box had a genuine stand-alone price. The ASA understood that the different contract lengths of 18 and 24 months stemmed from when TalkTalk first began offering a TV service, when customers who were completely new to TalkTalk joined on an 18-month contract while those who were already on a TalkTalk broadband and calls package and now wanted to include the TV element needed to commit to a 24-month contract. We looked at whether the length of the contract had been extended to recover the cost of supplying the YouView box but we considered there were effectively two different offers running simultaneously, one for customers completely new to TalkTalk and one for existing broadband and calls customers who could add TV to their package, and that the ad was clearly targeted at existing customers. We noted it was not unusual for an advertiser to market offers that were available only to new customers, but that did not mean, in this case, that the terms had been changed to recover the cost of supplying the YouView box to existing customers. Because of that, we concluded that ads (a) and (b) were not misleading.
On point 1 we investigated ad (a) and on point 2 we investigated ad (b) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (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 3.24.2 3.24.2 the cost of response, including the price of a product that the consumer must buy to take advantage of the offer, has been increased, except where the increase results from factors that are unrelated to the cost of the promotion, or (Free) but did not find them in breach.
No further action necessary.