Not ‘Free’ Broadband

The Carphone Warehouse¹s claim to offer ‘free broadband forever’ has been rubbished by The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Complaints from 145 customers, and rivals BT and NTL that Carphone are not providing ‘free broadband forever,’ have been received by the ASA.

The ASA opposed the ‘Free’ adverts as they are part of a newly created package that the customer has to pay for, not inline with existing products, therefore not legitimately ‘Free.’

The ASA also deemed the term ‘forever’ in Carphone¹s advertising inappropriate.

‘Inevitably, for those people who had signed up to the offer when it was advertised as ‘free’, the broadband would become ‘inclusive’ after a reasonable period of time because they would continue to pay £20.99 a month.

The benefit of ‘free’ broadband would therefore stop once it became inclusive because customer’s future payments would be for an ‘inclusive’ rather than ‘free’ aspect of what they were paying for,’ it said in its adjudication.

Similar broadband promotions have been launched by Orange and Sky in recent weeks, but they are not likely to be corrected by the ASA, as both are giving away connectivity with products that existed prior to the creation of the ‘free’ offer.

Since negotiating the niceties of the ASA’s adjudications Carphone has started to offer ‘free’ broadband with a call package that has been around since before April. It is £1 per month cheaper than the ‘free’ package that was originally on offer.

‘We are delighted and relieved to be able to report that common sense has prevailed and we will still be able to advertise the service as free,’ said Charles Dunstone, Carphone Warehouse.

However, the ASA has asked that Carphone Warehouse does not use the advertising in its current form and has requested the company finds better ways to explain the service before using the term free.

The Carphone Warehouse has now cut the price of its TalkTalk ‘free’ broadband package by £1 to £19.99 per month. What they’ve actually done is to remove the ‘unlimited international calls’ element that costs £1 to add back; those cheeky monkeys.

Customers won’t need to fork out £29.99 for the start-up fee either, but can instead choose to ‘optionally’ pay £29.99 for a modem. The move, combined with a move to make its ‘free’ broadband promotion an ‘optional’ package element, will allow TalkTalk to continue using the ‘free’ term.

Despite the Advertising Standards Authority upholding three complaints against the Carphone Warehouse, the ‘free broadband’ debate continues,The ASA said:
‘…misleading to suggest that the broadband was free when it involved an 18-month contractual commitment to the Talk3 International (T3I) calls package’.

‘We considered this made broadband an intrinsic part of the new T3I calls package. Although we acknowledged that the price difference of T3I had not been inflated beyond that of equivalent competitor’s call packages we still considered that the broadband element should not have been described as ‘free’,’
It can continue to call it Œfree¹ because the Carphone Warehouse maintains that it has adjusted its offer to include ‘free broadband’ with its Talk3 package, which existed before both Talk3 International and the broadband offer.

Also, two other complaints upheld by The ASA were; one that it was ‘free forever’ as in practice it would become ‘inclusive after a reasonable period of time because they would continue to pay £20.99 a month’.
They were also forced to state. ‘In the actual body copy that the service is available to 70 percent of UK households’, as customers would not realise they had to be connected to an unbundled exchange to get ‘free broadband.’