A page headed "Big Bundles" on the Virgin Media online store store.virginmedia.com, featured four TV, phone and broadband packages, the details of which were presented in a table. One, headed "Big Bang," stated "£20" and then below, in smaller text, "a month for 12 months then £30 a month". Underneath this, smaller text stated "+ Virgin Phone line for £15.99 a month". The other three bundles gave different price levels and were formatted in the same way.
The complainant, who did not believe the qualifications relating to the price of the contract after 12 months and the line rental cost were sufficiently prominent in comparison to the headline price, challenged whether the ad was misleading.
Virgin Media stated that, although the fonts were of different sizes, the “thereafter” and line rental prices were presented immediately after the initial price, and that the ”thereafter” price was in the same bold font. They stated that the information was not unclear, unintelligible or ambiguous, or that the initial price was given undue emphasis. They noted that previous investigations had determined that the line rental cost should be presented clearly alongside the most prominently stated bundle prices, and that they considered the presentation of the current ad to be in line with the requirement. Virgin Media stated that their understanding of CAP guidance was that the nature of short-term promotional prices should be made clear, and that a footnote would be unlikely to be sufficient. However, they noted the ”thereafter” price instead appeared in a sub-heading and therefore considered it to be in line with this guidance. Virgin Media stated their understanding that the complainant had appreciated the costs associated with the packages, but had objected to the way in which it was presented. They said that, as the complainant had understood the costs, it was their view that the advertising could not be misleading. They further stated that the presentation of their pricing was in line with industry practice, providing screenshots from competitors' websites to demonstrate this, and that the line rental and ”thereafter” prices were made clear throughout the online purchase process, for which they also provided screenshots.
The ASA noted that the line rental and ”thereafter” price were removed from the most prominent price by blank space and a line of text, and presented in different sizes. Nonetheless, these prices appeared immediately after the headline price and were located within the same cell on the comparison table. Although we understood that the complainant felt it was misleading to use the short-term promotional price as the headline, as this was not the price that consumers would pay after the promotional period had ended, we considered that it was acceptable for this to be the most prominent part of the pricing information as long as it was made sufficiently clear that this was a short-term price that would eventually rise. We considered that the continued use of a bold font for the ”thereafter” price served to highlight and clarify the short-term nature of the headline price, and that the separation of the prices and focus on the promotional price was not misleading. We also understood that the complainant felt the line rental was insufficiently prominent or clearly linked to the prices for the package. However, we noted that the line rental charges immediately followed the ”thereafter” price, were stated clearly and appeared in the same cell as the headline price. Although we noted that the line rental price was separated from the headline price by the ”thereafter” price, we considered that consumers would be familiar with the applicability of a monthly line rental, and with this being quoted separately, and would recognise that this charge would be additional to the promotional pricing period as well as the subsequent full-priced section of the contract. We therefore considered that the line rental charge was not presented in a manner that would mislead consumers, and concluded that the ad did not breach the Code.
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), 3.10 3.10 Qualifications must be presented clearly.
CAP has published a Help Note on Claims that Require Qualification. (Qualifications) and 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 3.21 3.21 If the price of one product depends on another, marketing communications must make clear the extent of the commitment the consumer must make to obtain the advertised price. (Prices), but did not find it in breach.
No further action required.