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Watchdog bares teeth at Net companies

Dodgy ads bring stern reprimand from ASA

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The advertising watchdog has given three Net companies a good ticking off this month for publishing misleading ads. In the latest monthly report, Lycos.co.uk, Online Direct and the X-Stream Network were all subject to investigation by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Rival search engine Excite.co.uk complained about a Lycos magazine ad that claimed it was the "No.1 e-commerce platform in Europe". The ASA ruled that Lycos' grand claim was "so vague that it was difficult to define and therefore substantiate" warning it could "mislead" readers. A secondary complaint by Excite was not upheld by the ASA. The X-Stream Network got its wrists slapped after claiming it offered free 0800 calls all weekend. The complainant challenged X-Stream after experiencing difficulties accessing the Net using the ISP's freephone number. Despite a vigorous defence by X-Stream, the ASA upheld the complainant saying that the ad didn't make it clear that free calls were available only at "specific times during the weekend". Elsewhere, Online Direct pulled its ad offering a "brand new PC for only £299.99" after it was discovered that purchasers also had to pay £30 for an on-site warranty, use OD's ISP for a year, fork out for at least ten hours of calls a month and cough up for delivery. ®

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