TalkTalk faces “doublespeak” wrath of ASA

PhoneTalkTalk has faced the simpering wrath of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The telecoms company has been told off after it promised customers a “free” YouView box alongside a TV and phone package on a TV ad.

A direct mailing advert also had the same promise.

The complainant challenged whether the claims that the YouView box was “free” in the ads because there was a £50 installation fee.

TalkTalk said its offer of a YouView set top box was a conditional purchase offer in accordance with the CAP Guidance on the use of “free”. It explained that the price of itsPlus telecoms package was established in the marketplace prior to the addition of the free set top box.

At the time the YouView box was introduced, it said it did not increase the price of the paid-for items, for example the Plus telecoms package.

TalkTalk also tried to cover its tracks explaining that that installation of the YouView box had to be undertaken by an engineer so as to ensure proper activation of the TV service. It said The engineer installation charge had not been inflated to recover the cost of the free YouView box and pointed out that both ads made clear that there was a £50 installation charge with the free YouView box.

The ASA said it understood that the £50 engineer installation fee was payable by all consumers who opted to take the YouView box and that the YouView box and the £50 fee were inextricably linked.

However, it pointed out that when a consumer unbundled the YouView box from the telecoms subscription, they effectively paid £50 less, which was the cost of the installation fee.

Because the fee was payable to TalkTalk and not a third party, all consumers who took up the claimed “free” offer were charged £50 more than those who did not.

The watchdog said it therefore considered that because the YouView box and the £50 fee were inextricably linked, the claims that the box was “free” were misleading.

It ordered that the claims should not appear again in their current form and told TalkTalk to take care in future when describing an item as “free”, in the future.