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Wanadoo defiant as BT wins 'dear Ben' ad row

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Wanadoo UK is in defiant mood today even though BT scored a clean sweep of advertising-related complaints against the ISP.

The advertising watchdog upheld five complaints against Wanadoo following the publication of an ad in the guise of a letter poking fun at BT's decision to double the speed of its entry-level broadband service just hours after Wanadoo UK announced a similar offer.

In the letter addressed to BT chief exec Ben Verwaayen published during the summer, the ISP said it was "flattered" by BT's decision to follow "Wanadoo's lead in making 2 Meg its standard broadband offer for customers".

Said the "Dear Ben" letter: "We don't blame you for trying to emulate the great deals we give - but let's be honest, our customers are still going to be a lot better off than yours".

And in a dig at BT's position as both a wholesale and retail supplier of broadband the letter says: "OK, we may have to charge £20 to upgrade an existing customer to 2 Meg - but you know why that is don't you? Yes, it's because you folks at BT charge us to do it. Still, local loop unbundling will sort that issue out won't it?

"But even with that regrade charge, our customers end up saving more and getting a lot more than yours do," said the letter before signing off as "Your friends at Wanadoo".

BT objected to the ad on a number of grounds including Wanadoo's allegation that BT was behind the £20 upgrade charge. BT pointed out that it was only responsible for 64 per cent of that charge (£11 plus VAT) and that Wanadoo was responsible for the rest.

The ISP rejected that saying the charge was imposed to "recoup some of the costs of administering the BT charge".

In a ruling today the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rejected Wanadoo's defence of its ad upholding all five complaints.

Undeterred a spokesman for Wanadoo UK told us: "We will not back away from highlighting to customers where we feel they are getting a bad deal from the incumbent previous monopoly player."

And Wanadoo should know about "incumbent previous monopoly players". Last week France Telecom - the incumbent in France and parent company of Wanadoo - was fined a whopping €80m (£54m) for failing to open up its network to rival broadband providers. It plans to appeal the ruling issued by France's Competition Council branding the fine as "disproportionate". ®

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