ASA Adjudication on TalkTalk Telecom Ltd
TalkTalk Telecom Ltd
11 Evesham Street
20 July 2011
Computers and telecommunications
Number of complaints:
A TV ad for a phone and broadband provider featured a voice-over accompanied by changing on-screen text. The voice-over stated "Would you like to save over 140 pounds a year on your calls and broadband? Well, it couldn't be easier." On-screen text stated "SAVE OVER £140". Small print at the bottom of the screen stated "TT Essentials package. 40GB download limit. Connection £29.99. £12.30 monthly line rental. 18-mnth min contract. Conditions apply. Direct debit payment. Available 80% UK households".
The voice-over then stated "Simply switch to TalkTalk and you'll pay six pounds ninety-nine a month for your calls and broadband, and join our customers who are already saving an average of over 140 pounds a year" while the on-screen text changed to state "£6.99". Smallprint at the bottom of the screen stated "Source: July 2010 ICM Research Survey of 1,001 new TalkTalk customers monthly spend with previous supplier vs. TalkTalk average monthly bill (switching to equivalent services)”.
The voice-over, accompanied by related on-screen text, then stated “That’s right. Six pounds ninety-nine a month for up to 24 meg broadband and unlimited evening and weekend calls to any UK landline. Switching is easy, just one call and we’ll do all the rest. To see if you could start paying six pounds ninety nine a month just call 0800 XXX XXXX ... TalkTalk Brighter phone and broadband”.
British Telecommunications Ltd (BT) challenged whether the ad was misleading because:
1. it exaggerated the savings that customers were likely to achieve by switching to TalkTalk; and
2. the savings claim was based on savings that had been achieved by customers who had already switched to TalkTalk, and not on the savings that could be achieved by the customers of other providers to whom the ad was addressed.
1. TalkTalk Telecom Ltd (TalkTalk) said the on-screen text “Save over £140” featured in the ad was surrounded by numerous question marks which made clear that the claim was posed as a question and not a statement. They said, in addition, the voiceover stated “... and join our customers who are already saving an average of over 140 pounds a year?” and the implication was therefore not that viewers would definitely save, but rather that others had saved and asked if the viewer could save too.
TalkTalk said the ad did not claim that customers joining TalkTalk would save over £140 but instead set out the results of a survey in an accessible way and invited customers to see if they could save money with TalkTalk. They therefore believed that the ad did not contain a savings claim and said there could consequently be no exaggeration.
TalkTalk explained that the savings substantiated by the survey were calculated by asking a sample of new customers who had switched to TalkTalk, what their monthly phone and broadband bill was with their previous supplier. They then calculated the average and compared that figure to the average monthly cost of phone and broadband for TalkTalk customers generally over the previous six month period. The average saving per month was over £150 and this tallied with new customers’ own calculations about how much they estimated they had saved by switching to TalkTalk. They believed the ad had not made a comparison to specific products or providers and the prices for other telecoms providers were irrelevant.
Clearcast said the survey had confirmed that the savings were obtainable and the ad therefore did not exaggerate them. They said, in order to cover the fact that not everyone might experience the stated savings, they made sure that the claim was posed as a question. They said the claim, which did not name a competitor, made clear that it was based on people who had made the switch and then found they were making a saving and the viewer could also be one.
2. TalkTalk said the material information with regard to the survey was set out in a clear, intelligible and unambiguous manner via the voiceover. They said the ad simply re-stated the results of the survey and made clear that the savings referred to had been made by TalkTalk customers.
TalkTalk said the survey did not seek to make a comparison with a specific competitor, but rather requested details of the charges of any competitor which the customer had taken services from prior to joining TalkTalk and therefore took an unbiased approach. They said the reference to savings of current TalkTalk customers was on an average total bill spend without being selective of certain charges or features. They said they had made every attempt to comply with the BCAP Code and believed strongly that the ad was not misleading.
Clearcast said the claim was based on a survey of customers who had already switched to TalkTalk and that that was made clear in the ad.
1. & 2.Upheld
The ASA noted TalkTalk’s arguments that the ad presented a question and not a statement. We disagreed that the question marks surrounding the onscreen text “SAVE OVER £140” made this clear as they appeared only briefly and could easily have been overlooked. We considered that the claims “Save over £140” and “... join our customers who are already saving an average of over 140 pounds a year” would be interpreted by viewers as a whole-bill savings claims and that by switching to TalkTalk, like those customers who had already switched, they too would make a substantial saving. We considered that such a claim would need to be substantiated with a comprehensive, robust set of comparisons which showed that TalkTalk’s phone and broadband tariffs were lower than those of their competitors.
We understood however, that the savings claim was not based on such comparisons but on the results of a survey of customers who had already switched to TalkTalk, and who had been asked how much they had paid for phone and broadband with their previous supplier and how much they had saved by switching to TalkTalk. We did not consider that that methodology was sufficiently robust to support a savings claim because customers who had switched to TalkTalk were more likely to have done so if they were going to make a saving, and the survey results were therefore unlikely to include data for customers for whom a switch would result in either no saving at all or only a small saving. We therefore considered that the survey results could not show that customers of other providers would definitely make a substantial saving if they also switched.
Although it had not been TalkTalk's intention to make such a claim, we considered that the survey results were not sufficiently robust to support the likely interpretation of the definite savings claim made in the ad. We concluded that the ad exaggerated the savings that customers to whom the ad was addressed were likely to achieve and was misleading.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1, 3.2 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Substantiation) and 3.12 (Exaggeration).
The ad must not be shown again in its current form.