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TalkTalk ads banned by watchdog over 'misleading' YouView offer

When free ain't 'free' cos there's a 50 quid fee

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Budget ISP TalkTalk has been warned to be careful with how its uses the term "free" in the future, after the telco was found by the ads watchdog to have "misled" customers over claims it had made about one of its promotional deals.

The company had run a TV commercial and sent out a direct mailing late last year for a broadband, television and phone package that it said came with a "free YouView box", even though an installation fee of £50 had been applied to the promotion.

The Advertising Standards Authority agreed with a complainant who challenged TalkTalk's claim that its offer included a "free" YouView box.

TalkTalk disputed that it had misled consumers and argued that it had simply followed "standard industry practice" by charging an installation fee for a "free" set top box.

The ads regulator said:

We ... acknowledged TalkTalk's comment that the engineer installation charge was a genuine cost solely in relation to the activation of the YouView box and it had not been inflated to recover the cost of the free YouView box.

However, we noted that when a consumer unbundled the YouView box from the telecoms subscription, they effectively paid £50 less, this being the cost of the installation fee.

We agreed that one-off, up-front costs, for example to buy equipment necessary to use a free item or for a connection fee payable to a third party, would not negate claims that a product or service was "free".

However, we considered in this situation, because the fee was payable to TalkTalk and not a third party, that situation did not apply.

The ASA added that even subscribers who wanted to connect the box themselves would still be charged a £50 installation fee. "We therefore considered that because the YouView box and the £50 fee were inextricably linked, the claims that the box was 'free' were misleading," it concluded.

TalkTalk was warned by the watchdog to consider use of the word "free" more carefully in its future ad campaigns. ®

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