UK mobile network Three has been rapped for touting a tablet computer that customers couldn't actually buy – and then, having got the interested punters on the phone, tried flogging them a more expensive slab instead.
One outraged man told the advertising watchdog that an ad on Three's website stated that the operator's online shop had run out of fondleslabs and that people should ring up to place an order through the retail department.
But that dept was also out of stock, so callers were offered another, more expensive, touchscreen device. The complainant feared he had been the target of a bait-and-switch wheeze, and complained to Blighty's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
Three argued that when the website ran out of stock it was standard practice to point customers to the retail department's hotline, and that when it too ran out, alternative deals were offered.
But the ASA ruled that by using the text "to buy this item please call us on: 0800... or visit a 3Store", Three implied that a purchase was possible, and callers wouldn't understand that this was only an alternative source of limited supply.
Not that the ASA can censure Three in any way; it's a regulator entirely without teeth that can only ask that companies don't act that way again. In this instance it reckons Three should change the wording to make it clear that calling retail doesn't promise a sale, and Three probably will, at least until the next time. ®