What do the ASA rulings mean?
The ASA's four rulings against CWC, released on 10 June, 6 July and 8 July (the 10 June and 8 July rulings are also available on the ASA's Web site) are excellent news and have many implications:

People were misled

CWC failed to mention that ex-Videotron subscribers would lose unmetered calls if they moved from a Videotron tariff to a CWC one; in the opinion of the ASA that omission misled subscribers.

CWC are constrained in what they can say

CWC can no longer say that their own tariffs are cheaper than Videotron ones; they can no longer imply that access via Cable and Wireless Internet is cheaper than with other Internet Service Providers; they must also state that unmetered calls will be lost in any material which tries to move ex-Videotron customers to CWC tariffs. And they have done so. Their latest leaflet says, in part:

Although there are no unlimited free calls, you will enjoy at least 100 free minutes of local evening calls per month ...

It is improbable that such a clumsy phrase would have been used unless CWC had been obliged to use it.

CWC have to state against whom comparisons are made

CWC now must state, if they decide to make a comparison, that they're comparing their service against BT. This is awkward for them, as many advertising campaigns make unverifiable statements like '24% less X' ... with no indication of who or what had more of X in the first place.

A few words in your ear ...

I don't know how heavily CWC are being leant on, but I have been told that, if breaches of the industry code are considered particularly severe or occur frequently, the ASA can impose 'minders' on a company who vet all its advertising and promotional material before it is published.

Where was the research?

In the investigation which led to the first and second ruling, it appears that the ASA pressed CWC hard for details of the research which supposedly showed that Videotron users would save money on moving to a CWC tariff; it's a fair bet, as the details never did appear, that the research never existed.
Text by Alastair Scott

Cable and Wireless Watch main page