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Sky taken to task for online promo cock-up

Broadcaster broke ASA rules after servers failed

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Broadcaster Sky should have made sure its websites could handle the traffic generated by its promotional advertising, and should have made a web offer available on the phone once it ran into problems, the advertising regulator has said.

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has upheld complaints against Sky over people's inability to take advantage of a half-price offer on high-definition television (HD TV).

Four people complained that they could not access the offer on Sky's website. They phoned the company and were told that they could not receive the discount because it was an online-only offer.

Sky claimed that it did not accept that all the problems were down to its systems, and that it had not instructed its phone sales people to offer the deal because it could not be sure when an issue was caused by a failure of its website and when the failure was the customer's.

Customers said, though, that Sky staff admitted to them that the site had had problems.

"The complainants had experienced problems with the website several times over several days and the website had directed them to call the Sky helpline; some of the complainants stated that, on calling the number, the Sky staff member had conceded that they had problems with the website," said the ASA's ruling. "We considered that, because customers were unable to take advantage of the promotion due to technical difficulties, they would expect the offer to be fulfilled over the telephone."

The ASA said that Sky's failure to deal with the demand for the advertised promotion broke its rules on sales promotion administration.

"We considered that, by failing to administer the promotion adequately, Sky had caused unnecessary disappointment to some customers who had been unable to take advantage of the promotion," it said.

Other errors were found to have existed in the promotion, including an affiliate site's redirection of users to the wrong offer and that customers had been wrongly informed about the offer's closing date. But the ASA said that these errors were not breaches of its rules.

See: The ruling

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OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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