Delivering a king size slipper to the ample bottom of BT, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that BT’s PC-based internet telephony service, BT Communicator, does not make “free” calls.
In one of its mailings, the UK telco behemoth had bragged: “BT Communicator – FREE UK Calls for a year” emphasising the freebieness of the deal with the strap line: “The power of BT Broadband to enjoy free calls for a year”.
But a concerned consumer in Kent was having none of it, arguing that by gleefully proclaiming “FREE UK Calls for a year”, BT was pulling a fast one.
The Kentish complainant pointed out that by using the VoIP service he’d rapidly burn up the 1 gig a month usage limit that BT slaps on its Broadband Basic packages – and once he exceeded that limit, he’d have to start forking out for additional time online.
Hauled in front of the ASA, BT mumbled something about the fact that they “had not intended to charge customers for the service, but they had not fully considered the impact of usage allowances on the ability to make free calls”.
The ASA was not impressed, making a savage sauté of BT’s nether regions: “The Authority was concerned that, although the promotion offered ‘free calls’, those calls depleted the monthly usage allowance that a broadband customer paid for on a monthly basis as part of their broadband package”.
Smarting from a derriere rouge par excellence, BT was told “not to describe calls that depleted a consumer’s usage allowance as ‘free’ and to state prominently in advertisements for BT Communicator that making telephone calls depleted a consumer’s broadband usage allowance”.
This ruling raises the suggestion that BT hasn’t fully considered the impact of VoiP usage allowances on its services.
With BT ramping up bandwidth-gorging offerings with innovations like video on demand and smarty pants hybrid mobile/landline BT Fusion handsets, the broadband experience of the future may prove to be a mighty expensive one for consumers.