Mobile network Three's advertisement, which states its 0800 numbers are free, has been banned following customer complaints. Three’s television ad said all 0800 numbers were free to customers on 24-month plans and invited its customers to make the most of them. However, 11 customers complained that the offer only applied to new customers or new contracts, and they had to pay £5 a month to take advantage of the deal. A customer said the cost of the service had been increased to existing customers to cover the 0800 calls.
In response, Three said that 0800 numbers were free on its new 24-month plans. The information from the advertisement’s voiceover and on-screen text was unambiguous, it added. The network said it was standard within the industry to charge for 0800 calls. However, the new plan offered customers the opportunity to make the calls at no extra cost.
Three said prices reflected a number of factors e.g. inflation, network investment, market conditions, network capacity, the cost of data and handset prices. It stated that it had not increased its pricing to include the cost of 0800 calls.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said that while it understood that free calls were only available with new 24-month contracts, it agreed that the television ad contained ambiguous and contradictory messages; these did not make clear the the commitment consumers had to make to take advantage of the free offer.
The ASA said consumers had to understood from the ad that no additional charges would be incurred by them. It ruled that the ad breached advertising rules because the price of the service had been increased.
‘The ad must not appear again in its current form,’ said the ASA. ‘We told Three to ensure the basis of any 'free' claim was clear to consumers in future.’
When we contacted Three, a company spokesperson told Mobile, 'We want as many people as possible to know that our new price plans have a host of great benefits, including free 0800 numbers.'