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BT's handling of a "free flights" promotion, used to plug its broadband service, has been savaged by the UK's advertising watchdog, which upheld four separate complaints from 11 hacked-off punters.

In May last year BT began giving away free flights to destinations in Europe and the US, including Barcelona, Boston and New York. The six-week offer was open to new customers signing up to its consumer broadband products.

But it soon became clear that all was not well, with reports that some punters hadn't received the flights they wanted.

A decade or so after Hoover was all but massacred for its infamous botched free-flight offer, there were fears that BT could be heading the same way. The telco admits it did suffer a backlog of orders but insists everyone who wanted a flight got one.

Despite those assurances, a number of people who took up the offer complained that it was poorly administered, with flight vouchers and details failing to arrive within the 28-day delivery period. Others claimed that the offer was misleading because they couldn't choose when or where they wanted to travel.

Today, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld those complaints and also ripped into BT and Cheshire-based MKM Marketing & Promotions Ltd, which operated the scheme, for underestimating the response from customers.

Overall, today's ruling from the ad watchdog points to a scheme that misled punters and was poorly run.

A spokesman for the UK's dominant fixed line telco - which is still facing an investigation by the ASA and trading standards concerning an "Advent Calendar" promotion - said the company accepted the ASA's findings and would learn from its mistakes. ®

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BT in broadband free flight promo
OFT rattles sabre over 'free flights' web offer
Trading Standards, ASA confirm BT 'Advent Calendar' probe
BT denies fiddling prices on Advent Calendar sales promo

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