Phone and broadband provider TalkTalk has been criticised by the advertising watchdog for a misleading advert which exaggerated the savings potential customers could make by switching to their service.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) was asked to investigate a television advert which claimed customers could save more than £140 a year on calls and broadband, with a voice-over stating: "Simply switch to TalkTalk and you'll pay £6.99 a month for your calls and broadband, and join our customers who are already saving an average of over £140 a year".
The voice-over, accompanied by related on-screen text, stated "That's right. Six pounds ninety-nine a month for up to 24meg broadband and unlimited evening and weekend calls to any UK landline. Switching is easy, just one call and we'll do all the rest."
Rivals BT asked whether the advert was misleading, saying it exaggerated the savings that customers were likely to achieve by switching to TalkTalk. BT claimed the financial benefit was based on savings that had been achieved by customers who had already switched to TalkTalk, and not on the savings that could be achieved by the customers of other providers to whom the advert was addressed.
In response, TalkTalk Telecom Ltd said the on-screen text "Save over £140" featured in the advert was surrounded by numerous question marks which made clear that the claim was posed as a question and not a statement.
They said, in addition, the voiceover stated "... and join our customers who are already saving an average of over £140 a year?" and the implication was therefore not that viewers would definitely save, but rather that others had saved and asked if the viewer could save too.
The company said the advert did not claim that customers joining TalkTalk would save over £140 but instead set out the results of a survey in an accessible way and invited customers to see if they could save money with TalkTalk. It therefore believed that the advert did not contain a savings claim and said there could consequently be no exaggeration.
TalkTalk said the savings substantiated by the survey were calculated by asking a sample of new customers who had switched to TalkTalk, what their monthly phone and broadband bill was with their previous supplier. It then calculated the average and compared that figure to the average monthly cost of phone and broadband for TalkTalk customers generally over the previous six month period.
The company said the average saving per month was over £150 and this tallied with new customers' own calculations about how much they estimated they had saved by switching to TalkTalk. It said it believed the advert had not made a comparison to specific products or providers and the prices for other telecoms providers were irrelevant.
A spokeswoman for TalkTalk said: "We respect the judgment but believe our advertising around potential savings was clear."