Virgin Media has been walloped by Britain's advertising watchdog for failing to clearly explain that a half-price deal it was flogging did not apply to line rental.
A complaint about a direct mailing promotion that came loaded with a "little(ish) book" of offers was upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority, which concluded that the company had breached a number of the watchdog's codes including substantiation, qualification, prices and sales promotions.
Virgin Media claimed in its ad:
Your little(ish) book of massive savings on TV, broadband, calls and mobile. Pick the perfect package to suit you, from the offers inside, and pay half price until January next year.
Inside the booklet, VM continued to boast about its deal:
TV and calls ... Pay half price until January next year ... Just £4 a month for 6 months then £8 a month with a Virgin Phone line for £14.99 a month.
Customers who wanted to read the small print about the offer were required to look at footnote text on the reverse of the leaflet, which said "Half price discount not applicable to line rental".
The complainant successfully challenged the ad on the grounds that it had misled customers by failing to be upfront about the line rental charge.
Virgin Media disputed the gripe, but the ASA disagreed.
The regulator said:
[W]e considered that the fact line rental charges were excluded from the saving was significant information which should have been included on the front cover of the booklet.
Because we considered that most consumers reading the claims on the front cover of the booklet would understand that the half-price saving applied to all the packages within, and include line rental charges where applicable, we concluded that the ad was misleading and in breach of the Code.
Virgin Media was told that the ad must not appear again in its current form. It was also ordered to clearly notify customers where line rentals were excluded in one of its deals. ®