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Free cheers for Freeserve

ISP gets one over on rivals

ISP Freeserve today claimed a victory over rival AOL as the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) upheld its claim that recent advertising for AOL's free narrowband internet access was misleading.

The advert, which also received complaints from consumers, had the heading "AOL the free trial". Beneath this, a table compared AOL's prices against its competitors', including Freeserve and BT Openworld. It claimed that the first month's membership to AOL was free, while its rivals charged £9.99 and £5.99 respectively. The ad went on to point out that its customer service lines were also free during this period unlike its competitors'.

Text below the table stated, "Other providers try this and that, but you simply can't beat what we deliver. Because when AOL offers you a free trial, it really does mean free."

But Freeserve complained that the comparison was misleading because it did not make clear that Freeserve's promotional price ran for three months, as opposed to AOL's one month, making it the cheapest of the three services.

The ASA agreed the advert was misleading and ordered AOL to pull it.

Freeserve also complained about an advertisement, circulated via email by ISP Tiscali, which asked users "Are you paying too much for your Freeserve internet connection?"

Freeserve argued successfully the question suggested Tiscali was offering the same service at a cheaper price when the services were not comparable. The complaint was upheld.

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