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TalkTalk slapped for 'free' calls ad

ASA calls foul

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BT has struck a blow against fierce rival Carphone Warehouse after the advertising watchdog ruled that an ad plugging its TalkTalk phone service was misleading.

The former monopoly had complained about an ad which boasted "Free Unlimited landline calls for three months". The ad, plugging its phone package, went on to say that "TalkTalk customers talk FREE FOREVER to each other".

BT submitted its complaint because it reckoned the calls were inclusive, not free. Carphone argued the opposite insisting that calls made between their customers were free, not inclusive.

But after mulling the complaint, the ASA decided that TalkTalk's claims were misleading.

"We considered that calls to other TalkTalk customers offered under a call allowance," said the ASA in its ruling, "that, in isolation, did not involve a monthly fee but was offered in conjunction with a line rental agreement, were an intrinsic part of a 'bundled' package; they were therefore not free, but inclusive in the overall package price."

In a statement, Carmoan Warehouse chief exec Charles Dunstone told us: "Whilst we take any ruling from the ASA seriously, the fact that the only complaint received was from BT leads us to think that this doesn't seem to be an issue that confused any real customers. We politely recommend to BT that they spend a little more time looking at their own expensive call charges and a little less time reading our ads."

Today's ruling will come as a blow to Carphone which is using a similar approach to flog its new "free broadband forever" service. Following more than 40 complaints from members of the public, and just two from industry rivals (BT and Tiscali), these ads are now also under ASA investigation. ®

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