CAP aims for transparency in telecoms

Marketing Week has learned of new advertising guidelines for the fiercely-contested telecoms sector. Partly prompted by a legal spat between arch rivals BT and Cable & Wireless Communications, the plans were first revealed last year (MW December 18 1997).

The detailed notes, which aim to achieve greater transparency in telecoms ads and curb misleading comparisons, follow BT’s victory over CWC in the High Court last December. The dispute arose following the distribution of a BT pamphlet containing certain price claims.

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) help note, will be published on May 8 and says ” comparisons should be clean and fair” and should not exaggerate availability or benefits. Prices quoted must include VAT with clearly visible footnotes.

Fairness will be determined by the Advertising Standards Authority on whether customers can make “an informed and rational choice”.

Savings based on call patterns must be made clear in the text rather than a footnote. One-off charges should appear in a footnote if they could affect the customer’s decision.

Total bill comparisons should be avoided if at least one tariff is more expensive than a rival’s and if there is no generally accepted call pattern.

On tariff comparisons, advertisers should compare like with like, described in the help note as “the most comparable tariffs of their competitors”.

BT head of strategy Ian Price welcomes the guidelines: “It is exactly what we were looking for. It will help stop a number of advertising practices which mislead customers.”

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