Following an investigation by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), UK-based price comparison service and switching website, uSwitch, was found to have made ‘unsubstantiated and misleading’ claims.
The issue was regarding the company’s claims on www.uswitch.com. The statements of concern included: "Exclusive uSwitch offers for broadband in Winterslow,” “Compare Winterslow area's cheapest broadband deals from £2.50,” as well as "Broadband deals available in Winterslow," followed by a list of 37 broadband offers from various providers.
The single complainant challenged whether the deals displayed were actually available in Winterslow, Wiltshire, and questioned whether the claims could be substantiated.
In the company’s response on the ASA rulings, uSwitch said it was reliant on a third-party, location-based service to display the correct deals for the area and unfortunately it appeared that the deals for Winterslow were not listed correctly.
Insufficient to Resolve the Issue
“USwitch said they had made some changes to their website, in particular, they made the postcode search function more prominent because, they believed, that gave more accurate results than a general search using the name of the town,” the ASA rulings statement said.
“USwitch said that longer term, they intended to work with the third-party service to see what options were available to prevent similar errors from happening in future.”
The ASA said it understood that not all the deals listed were available in Winterslow and noted the changes made by uSwitch, to their website, but considered they were ‘insufficient to resolve the issue’.
Claims Banned in Current Form
“In particular, we had concerns that when we entered the complainant's postcode into the postcode search function, it produced the same results as those that the complainant had obtained by searching for deals in Winterslow,” the ASA said.
“We understood that uSwitch had identified a bug in their postcode search function and that had since been rectified. Nevertheless, a general search for ‘Winterslow’ generated 37 deals and we understood from uSwitch, that not all of the deals listed were available in Winterslow.”
The ASA said it understood that uSwitch had inserted a disclaimer under the search listings which stated ‘Some deals may not have complete coverage in your area. Please click through to the provider website to validate the availability in your exact location". However, the ASA considered that the disclaimer indicated that all the deals were available to at least some customers in Winterslow, depending on the area they lived in, whereas it understood that was not the case.
The ASA upheld the complaint and said that uSwitch, which has this week been the subject of a management buyout, must not ‘mislead’ consumers about the availability of deals in their area, and must not display those claims again, in their current form.
Senior commercial manager at uSwitch.com, Marie-Louise Abretti, said the company will continue to listen to any feedback about its site in the future and hopes to continue to ‘help millions of people find a better deal every month’.
“We take our role in helping consumers to find the best broadband deals very seriously and endeavour to help everyone looking for a broadband deal find the one to best suit their needs,” Abretti said.
“Therefore we have taken on-board all feedback from the customer and the ASA and have amended our site to help give the clearest information and advice possible.
“We always impress that entering a postcode will give consumers the most accurate way of finding what deals are available to them, but also understand that not everybody wants to input this information - which is where our ‘Broadband Local’ service is valuable.”