back to article BT's 'six-month free broadband' offer is a big fat FIB - ads watchdog

BT misled customers by wrongly claiming that one of its broadband products was "free for six months", says Blighty's ad watchdog. This is the second time this year the national telco has been scolded by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The offending press advert boasted that "the UK's most complete broadband package …

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Re: why is line-rental mandatory?

"An even worse scam by BT is enforcing the full line-rental even when customers only need ADSL." - I'm with Orange France for internet [*] and this is how it works for me. The phone line just beeps and won't work, the phone (with a normal local code number) is plugged into the Livebox. I pay slightly more for my service than if I had a phone rental, but the total is less than rental+cheapersub. I could, if I wished [**], jack in the Livebox and go with somebody else like SFR or Free... but see [*].

Footnotes:

* - I am paying more for the Orange service because I know personally somebody who had a faulty internet, they payed over six months subscriptions while neither the phone nor the internet box worked correctly; both companies blaming the other. Sadly I said right at the start it sounded like a faulty filter. I say sadly because I was correct, only the person wanted an official engineer to say that. Six months of denied service and subs (trust me, we're looking at upwards of three HUNDRED euros) all for the want of a five euro part. So I am with Orange because I live in the back of beyond so would rather if something happened then there's nobody for Orange to blame as they deal with both bits.

** - actually, I lie. I am stuck with Orange for the next 24 months as I've just signed a contract for internet plus mobile phone. Running to about €55 a month, it offers a better deal than my previous options of ADSL (€40/month) plus Origami Zen mobile contract (€35/month). You can pick yourself up off the floor, while there are better options with relative unknowns, there are about the going prices here in France. I did a comparison with SFR last weekend and they worked out to be slightly more expensive. I wanted a new phone, which rules out Sosh. If you can read French, it is Open Style - http://open.orange.fr/forfaits/forfaits-internet-plus-mobile.aspx?rdt=o but feel free to look around the site. Then some of you might stop complaining about the prices for packages in the UK. I can't think why telecoms in France is so damned expensive, it just seems to be...

*** - additional footnote just to annoy the anti-footnote crowd, and to cause a segmentation violation due to unreferenced article. ;-)

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Re: why is line-rental mandatory?

"So when some cunning ad-exec reads this, we can perhaps expect Ford et al to start offering free cars, where you pay only several thousands of pounds for an optional accessory called the key?"

If they offer you a key that costs tens of thousands of pounds and a "free" car to go with it, then yeah

;)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: why is line-rental mandatory?

It's even worse than that. If you get the cheaper "pay 12 months upfront to get cheaper lone rental" deal, they throw in some free evening and weekend calls. Unfortunately, if you *don't* make enough calls per month they they charge a penalty for not using it, clearly designed to penalise people who only use their lines for broadband. And it's not mentioned in any available terms or advertising until *after* you've ordered the line!

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Re: why is line-rental mandatory?

I'm with you on that one. They put up the line rental saying "Ooh! Free calls!" Free? They're not free if you are charging extra for them. Also, I get my calls and broadband from Sky; it is IMPOSSIBLE for me to use those free calls you are forcing me to buy. Basically, BT got pissed off with people using them for line rental only, so they simply stopped offering line rental only. I now get my line rental from Sky, too. Screw BT.

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Holmes

Re: why is line-rental mandatory?

Sounds like an insulation problem. When I lived in N Wales in 2010, and had a line re-enabled (after 8-10 years of nil use) there was a hum, which the first engineer dismissed as something I'd have to 'get used to' (he couldn't be bothered to investigate it, reported a fault with customer wiring [despite testing from master socket and his laptop reporting a fault] and I was billed 125 quid, 3 months later, which was refunded on being challenged).

I had 6 months of problems, with broadband speeds down to 160 kbps for weeks, and if it rained (a damp summer, line installed February, problems April to August) both ADSL and voice would fail, for up to 5 days. After the second or third time I had no dial tone, I dug out an older 'pulse dial' phone and could get the line back to working with a few 0000000 calls (lots of pulses, presumably evaporating water short-circuiting the copper pair).

Young engineer from Merseyside came one Saturday morning and before I had answered the front door, he was up a ladder and removing the 30+ year old drop wire from the gutter level down to the hall, as he had spotted that the insulation on it had perished. Fitted a more up-to-date master socket in my upstairs computer room since the location in the hall was far from ideal (no power, wiring for extensions was awkward from that position).

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Happy

Re: why is line-rental mandatory?

Yes, I agree line rental with 'extras' you don't want is unpleasant,

I also disslike the method BT and others have used to lock customers in, and get round the OFCOM requirement to only charge a reasonable amount when cancellation takes place before contract minimum length. BT and others offering reduced line rental on payment of a lump sum are also telling customer to get stuffed if they cancel as they will get no refund of the advance payment (120+ pounds) so if you leave 9 months in, you lose 25% of your cash.

With other telco rental deals, typically one may be charged 2 to 4 quid for each month where the telco loses your line rental... IE no longer the full line rental charge because you will be paying some other telco for line rental, and in that charge they will be paying Openreach for the line... thus OFCOM has prevented customer from paying twice for the Openreach 'line' charge, and the 'losing' telco cannot pocket the bulk as profits.

I have been using Primus (found via MoneySavingExpert.com) which has options including no included calls from around 8 quid or less (sorry, rates fluctuate and sometimes there may be a cashback deal which makes the effective cost lower, down to buyers to investigate fully)... and use Plus.Net ADSL on the line, so paying for most basic line rental (and using 1899.com for calls at a flat 5p for 01/02/03 no matter how long the call duration, and 1p to USA etc) and 9.99 for unlimited broadband (no FUP small print to worry about with them). Still waiting for fibre to arrive though...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: why is line-rental mandatory?

I think I and most rational people would prefer that the whole price is rolled into one.

Providing the lines is a 'cost of doing business' and BT et al should see it as such and like all other businesses such costs should be factored into the price.

Line rentals/standing charges etc are all scams. You don't see Tesco's charging you separately for warehousing and distribution ...

Of course having the line rental means that the 'package' is the only part that needs to be competitive.

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Boffin

Re: why is line-rental mandatory?

AIUI "Annex J" (wires-only PSTN access is) conflicts with BT's USO for providing voice and emergency service access. To disconnect the pair from the voice services for a pure data service without the usual crosstalk / interference problems could open them up for liability should customer attempt to dial 999 later.

That said, this situation may have changed now and it may in fact be ok to supply Annex J. However from a technical standpoint Annex M is superior to Annex J where supporting LLU ADSL2+ services are available.

If you're canny and find a provider who lets you pay upfront for a year, you can get some pretty decent line rental deals (a tenner month sound good?) Primus' Saver package, with appropriate referral affiliate site discounts applied on the web site - or deft haggling over the phone - will get you into that price band. If you go with a loss leader telecoms company as part of a double/triple/quad play package, you can sometimes get near those prices too.

BT Openreach's per-customer final mile access fees are so high I wonder how some of these companies actually make any money (or justify continuing in business given the potential to make such a loss...!)

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Re: why is line-rental mandatory?

Why any liability? if it is a "data only" line then swap out the faceplate to ensure a phone cannot be plugged in - and affix a notice saying "no phone service on this line"

The USO for 999 surely cant apply legally where a customer has been provisioned with a "data only pair" at his/her request.

Axe the "voice tax"!

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Anonymous Coward

another line rental hike?! :(

this is how I have found out, just now. F*** c***

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FAIL

When it says "Offer ends 10/01/13"...

... I've always assumed that it meant that anyone applying for the offer by that date got the next 6 months for free...

Shows how much I know... *slaps forehead*

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here is nothing 'FREE' about those 6 months, it is a buy now, pay later deal unless you can cancel at the end of those 6 Months...

Glad the ASA held it up

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TANSTAAFL

Nuf. said.

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Anonymous Coward

Once again BT's high standards of integrity shine through

* BT's 'six-month free broadband

Along with:

* No, we've never intercepted web traffic

* No, we've never had anything to do with DPI

* No, we'd never do something like impose bevavioural advertising trial on our customers without asking them first.

* No, it MUST be your PC

* No, we're not scamming prices.

And one can probably add "I won't come in your mouth"

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Absolute truth in advertising--there oughta be a law.

There really should be a law in the books that enforces absolute truth in advertising (we can use courtroom standards--in the US that would mean your words must be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth). If a lie or half-truth is found, the company is guilty of deceptive appeal to the public (thus enforcing the "case" mentality of ads--you're making a case before the public, after all), punishable by having the ad enforced as if it was completely true, compensation equal to twice the difference, and/or a temporary cease-and-desist against all advertising other than simple price points (this is the phone and this is the bottom-line price, that's it): be they print, Net, TV, or on location.

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TANSTAAFL

Also worth noting that this generous offer is for their 'Option 1' broadband product which has a 10GB pcm volume limit and £5 / 5GB 'excess use' charge, but you'd have to refer to their website to discover that 'feature' as there's no mention (aside from the product name) on the multiple mailshots we've had promoting it. At our current household rate of data consumption, that defines 'free' as about £35 data + £10 line rental pcm...

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Flame

All broadband is mis-sold like this

"because a line rental charge would be applied to the product - making it anything but free."

Its never clear to me wether any given price includes the line rental - you just have to guess from the amount.

And as for all these "Free for six moths offers" you just have to to calucuklate it out - specially as you're locked in for 12 months = ((6*half+6*full)/12 )per month

Its the same for all these bullshit "12 months interest free" credit card bollocks

Transfer fee of 3%????

Well its 3% per annum then innit - not free.

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Re: All broadband is mis-sold like this

"Its the same for all these bullshit "12 months interest free" credit card bollocks

Transfer fee of 3%????

Well its 3% per annum then innit - not free."

No, it's potentially more. Quite some years since I did a transfer from one card to another, but that might be treated as a cash withdrawal with no interest free period and charged at whatever rate they would charge for new purchases... 20% or 30% APR or whatever in place on moving the balance.

The balance transferred may be interest free, but anyone moving a balance is recommended to use other accounts for spending as you should be trying to reduce the balance (and if necessary move the balance) before the 12 months is up.

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Re: All broadband is mis-sold like this @ M Mouse

It's worse than that

The rate would be the cash rate which is higher than new purchases because it also includes the handling fee on which interest is also charged from the date of the advance.

And do not ever fail to complete the pay-off by the end of the period cos you will get the handling fee charged on the whole amount from the date of the advance (i.e. the date you made the transfer) and interest on the fee calculated from that date. - For a transfer of £5000 that would be £150 for the 3% transfer plus interest on the £150 from the date of transfer - at that point you would probably be better off with a personal loan.

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Unhappy

BT, FOAD

Just got my "Free for 6 months" flyer today, it's now in the bin.

What a bunch of crooks!

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BT Lying Again?

Write an article when BT tell the truth about something.

That will be news!

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Telcos, the necessary sleight of hand.

As per mobile phone, broadband products are essentially identical (especially as most use BT's lines) but are presented as confusingly as possible to conceal their similarity.

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Anonymous Coward

Seems to make sense to me

Line rental is charged by everyone. To my knowledge it's what pays for the basic upkeep and running of the telephony network. Look at BTs financial results they don't exactly make money off the trad services anyway.

As for this campaign...I saw it and understood it and thought it was clear. Any advert from any supplier for anything has a little bit of "air" in it which you need to find first. Nothing is clear and anyone who sees an advert for something free and thinks they will have to pay nothing or not sign up to a long contract is a fool.

As for these comments about the BOGOF type supermarket offers...you people are obviously living in a deluded world. How can you even think you can take the "free" one without buying one first. It's Buy one get one free not half these products are free and half are full price. And make them all half price...you seriously don't understand retail if you think like that. All companies want to do is to make you buy as much as they can. That's it. If you fall for these "scams" all the time then maybe you should have you bank cards taken away until you develop some common sense!

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Re: Seems to make sense to me

The problem with BOGOFs is not that anyone actually expects to get one free without buying the other. The problem is that they encourage waste, which is why they are banned in some EU countries.

It is particularly galling if you live in London where so many people are in single person households to see that in big supermarkets the cheapest price per kilo for, in example cheese, is to buy not just one very large pack but to then get a second "free". Bound to create waste.

I suspect that the other issue with BOGOF is that, often the price of the paid for item has been increased prior to the offer compared with regular retail, to be reduced again at the expiry of the offer. Result, the second isn't actually free, as you are now paying a premium for the first.

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Boffin

Re: Seems to make sense to me

Actually, that sort of pricing behaviour is not looked on kindly by the regulator as it falls foul of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations. Back in 2008, my then employer took those regs pretty seriously and put everyone on a 2-day course.

As I understand it, and IANAL, anything underhand that is likely drive consumer behaviour, is a no no. So false strike through prices, i.e. a pretend sale, doesn't wash. Equally, manipulating prices for pretend BOGOF offers is not on.

The addiction to "free" by marketers is because everyone, of course, wants free stuff even though we know full well it isn't really free at all. We get a little mental reward from fuling (sic) ourselves we got it "free". It's a similar mind trick to when the missus comes home and has "saved" £150 on this great coat... even though she actually spent £200.

So don't expect the misuse of free to go away any day soon.

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Re: Seems to make sense to me

"often the price of the paid for item has been increased prior to the offer compared with regular retail"

Certainly seems to be the case for Tesco 'buy one, get two free' ''offers''.

Tesco gets no end of criticism for such tactics on HotUKdeals

Also agree about the additional waste, though even as a single person I sometimes buy when I see a BOGOF.

What annoys me most is that the offers are aimed at car-owning family shoppers, where the little old lady/man (pensioner) who would probably buy if the item was simply 'Half Price' (and be able to carry it) but cannot justify the 'bulk' (transport and/or consumption) and is being frozen out of saving money by the supermarkets, when they are in most need of being able to save what meagre pension money they have available...

Just wish someone in the IT section of a supermarket sees such a complaint now, and passes view up the line...

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Mushroom

BT are a shower of theiving so and so's

twice i have been forced into signing up BT as my telecom provider - mainly becuase there was no line available and i did not have the option of cable.

both times have ended up paying hefty hidden costs, somtimes 100 a month for broadband usage despite being on an all you can eat package.

BT deserve more than just a wrist slapping.

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Another unfair BT practice...

is to charge me £2.50 if i DONT make at least two phonecalls per month. Highly annoying considering i only need the line for broadband.

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Re: Another unfair BT practice...

Yep £8 extra a month (for caller ID and line installation over 18 months) for NOT plugging in a phone and dialling 10 numbers a month. Yes it's in the small print, I am aware of it and did reluctantly agree to it, but that doesn't make it fair - and the wording in the small print is confusing and borderline deceiving.

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Anonymous Coward

Wow the ASA were annoyed..... that must be like being ravaged by a dead sheep.

Maybe OFCOM could require the BT could concentrate on removing the "voice tax" from broadband provision - if voice and dialing facilities are not used (or required) why are we forced to pay for them? The ASA need to make BT advertise their lie.. in the same time slots and in the same manner - maybe an advert featuring the 3 students suddenly realizing that they have been ripped off by BT. The "apology prominence" should be a mandatory thing - that might dissuade the companies that seem to be happy to lie routinely knowing that the potential for increased sales is likely to more than cover the derisory fine from the tame watch-sheep

Time that BT group were dragged into the new millennium and forced to update their offerings but like truth in their advertising that isn't going to happen under the watch of OFCOM and the ASA, both of whom are a total waste of time and money, seeming to go through the motions while not actually managing to do any regulating or "persuading" BT group to provide the services people want without having to take those they don't

Failing that force BT to surrender either the network of the retail business - clearly it is unfit to run both between using SMP and plain lies to disadvantage both competitors and consumers..

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"if voice and dialing facilities are not used (or required) why are we forced to pay for them? "

Yes, if you stick with BT you may be paying OTT fee for "included calls" you won't use. Get a line from Primus and you pay far less (almost 50% savings on latest BT line rental monthly cost) without having to pay 12 months in one go, and without paying for any calls. However, some items such as Caller Display (should you want it) will cost...

Line 'installation' is only 60 quid, and line rental is pretty much what it costs them to pay Openreach for the rental (and yet, there's plant and staff to fix the line which is what the Openreach fee is for... I'm not in a position to know how much it costs, and how much is profit, but they've had to take (back) on engineering staff over the last few years (admittedly not as many for voice as for data)

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Mushroom

BT Suck

I'm referring to the part of the copper rent that goes on the maintenance of voice facilities. all I want is a couple of wires back to my LLU providers DSLAM.

Bt already lost my line rental - but I feel the pair should be cheaper as they cant fix an intermittent fault that has caused line drops for over 10 years, but keep whining about the cost of maintenance and investment - on an exchange where ADSL1 is supported on kit taken out of the exchanges favoured with upgrades.

No investment of any real nature happens here despite it being around a 10,000 line exchange.

They spend naff all here and yet expect us to bankroll all the upgraded areas with premium pricing on an out of date service provided over second hand kit. BT abuse the SMP they have and should be broken up.

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Anonymous Coward

sadly, in this Capitalist world, any action that even remotely threatens to dent the after tax profits or upset the Board, many of whom are Politicians, of any company is not going to happen. We should all get that used to that because the whole sorry thing is rotten to its very core and isn't going to change as long as Humans are running the show.

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WTF?

Try Talk Talk

Given all the shit Talk Talk get, the fact is that their Essentials service is the cheapest, particularly if you pay your line rental 12 months in advance.

presently, the broadband/telephone service my folks have works out cheaper than the line rental on most of the competition. Indeed, having threatened to get my MAC from them and change vendor, my folks are now paying less than £11.00 per month for unlimited broadband and highly reduced international telephone rates - given for more than two years we have had zero technical issues with Talk Talk and download speeds are average to say the least, one is quite pleased - even demanded a new modem/wireless router before signing for a full 12 month contract.

whilst they do throttle at peak times, I've downloaded nearly 200gigs in less than two months, for what my parents need - iPlayer and Skype on the computer, it's really much better value than what I can usually get in Hong Kong - can't say that for mobile phone charges though.

So, forget BT, Virgin and Sky, pure rip off merchants and give someone else a chance!

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Re: Try Talk Talk

Only problem with talktalk (and everyone else providing over trad. copper pair from the BT exchange) is they can do everything perfectly, but when the installer arrives in a BTopenreach (or Kelly Comms on bahalf of openreach), that's when it'll all go pear shaped.

Had a new install 2 days ago!

Sky phone and sky fibre.

BTo's VDSL installer arrived at 0900, and tried to force his view that he should install the service on someone else's physical line.

BTo's 2nd installer arrived 1200 to install the actual line.

New date for the vdsl install? 4th Feb.

Contracted date: 15th Jan.

Nothing screwes up even a perfect install by any telco faster then BTopenreach!

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Re: Try Talk Talk

To their credit, BTO's direct employees I've never had problems with. In fact when my ISP booked an SFI engineer improperly, the guy who turned up was just a standard engineer - with SFI experience and knowledge - and fortunately he had the tools, the wherewithall AND THE COURTESY to fix my problem anyway.

When I had a Kelly Comms subcontractor out, he was so keen to get to the next job and earn more commission that he effectively left the job half finished - with his termination equipment still on the line! - whilst he went to the exchange to presumably do two jobs at once. Even then, the problem wasn't fixed and I had to push him to rewire around a 50 year old hardwired GPO termination block and fit a new drop cable to the master socket.

Surprise surprise, when the problem recurred three months later, the BTO engineer stripped his work out, checked the overhead drop cable from the pole into my property then fitted a new prefiltered NTE5. Line's worked at max efficiency ever since.

I've always had good service from the BTO engineers, in Birmingham / West Mids at least they seem to mostly be experienced guys who are more pragmatic in their approach, probably due to the amount of shit they have to deal with caused by third parties and subcons. I had far more problems with the VM engineers during my office's protracted and VERY painful 100 Meg cable broadband installation.

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Mushroom

BT Inept

You are lucky - the ones they have in West Wales seem completely inept - except for booking charges where a network fault exists.

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While you're banning words in adverts ....

NEW

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This post has been deleted by its author

New legislation required - or Darwinism in action?

I never cease to be amazed at people showing me a shiny new and expensive mobile phone, for example, and telling me they got it free while not mentioning that it's on a 2 year contract at £40 a month.

I want all such offers to be required to include a "total contract minimum spend" statement. So that free mobile phone would have to state "total minimum contracted spend £960 over 2 years". That would also prevent the supplier ramping up the monthly fee during the contract. No, silly me, they'd still ramp the fee and hope nobody reported them to ASA - for no meaningful action to be taken, just an instruction not to do it again...

In similar vein are "free trials" where you are required to cancel by a specific date to prevent having initiated an ongoing subscription involving future payments. Same for 0% finance (subject to paying off the balance after 12 months otherwise the loan continues for another 2 years at a high interest rate).

On the other hand I'm getting to be such an old cynic that I'm inclined to think: "there are those of us who are numerate and smart enough to work it out for ourselves, meanwhile the mugs are paying over the odds and subsidising my better considered choices. This is Darwinism in action."

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Re: New legislation required - or Darwinism in action?

Awesome idea. I had a similar idea - any ad for a service offering should have a traffic light-style mandatory display, in a defined legible font and size, which clearly lays out total monthly commitment, total annual cost and minimum contract period, to be shown on screen (be it on TV or online) for at least a defined minimum amount of seconds. For radio ads, they could do spoken smallprint like for insurance / mortgage ads but with a defined reading speed.

Pisses me off too how people still seem to lack awareness about TCO, or just fail to adequately consider it which is bizarre when you consider the significant overall cost of these services.* "The phone was free even though the contract's £35 a month. But I got the phone free!" But did you cost out buying the phone sim-free on a 0% APR credit card, signing it up to a SIM-only tariff where the subsidy can be put into cheaper monthly cost? Thought not.

* No wonder the country's in so much debt. **

** And the answer to this problem is, of course, 42

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still advertising this "deal"

http://www.productsandservices.bt.com/consumerProducts/displayTopic.do?topicId=25633&s_intcid=con_intban_hp_deals

I guess BT don't have to pay any attention to the ASA at all

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Dr?

The main problem with the ASA is that they are far too slow. They issue a ruling not to run the advert again after the offer has expired. BT will care not one jot, the ad has already served its purpose.

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line rental - no just BT

Spent Sunday PM explaining to my mum why switching to virgin would still cost as all the packages are plus 14.50 / month line rental...

All adverts should have a bottom line - eg minimum of 18 months => min total payable 12*45+6*15 = 630 over 18 months

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