A promotional leaflet drop by eircom for eFibre Broadband was delivered to householders in Blackrock and Celbridge. Depending on the area, the front of the leaflet offered the following information:
“Blackrock It’s Here!” or “Celbridge It’s Here!”
Get 6 months free when you switch to an eircom bundle
Call 1800 303 626 Visit eircom.ie
Go to your local eircom store in…”.
The information provided on the back of the leaflet referred to the benefits attached to signing up to the eFibre package and the footnote read as follows:
“Free broadband offer is for new eircom customers on eFibre advanced and eTalk off-peak broadband and home phone bundle. New 18 month contract required. eFibre is subject to availability. Broadband speeds may vary and depend on the quality of your line. Bundle price of €30 a month applies for the first 6 months, €45 thereafter based on one customer subscribing. Free eFibre upgrade to existing eircom broadband customers. 6 months free broadband also available to new customers in non eFibre areas on uncongested HGB network with broadband advanced and talk off-peak broadband and home phone bundle. Promotion is available for a limited time only. For offer and dates and further terms see eircom.net”
Two complainants, one from each area mentioned, considered the advertising to be misleading as when they enquired about signing up to the package they were informed that eFibre was not yet available in their locality. One complainant was informed that while his cabinet was set up for the service it would take a few months before it could be installed.
The advertisers said that they were well underway in building Ireland’s largest high speed fibre broadband network at a significant cost. They had already made this new technology available to 1 million homes, with their ambition to reach 1.4 million homes by 2016.
In July 2014 eircom dropped leaflets to homes in the Celbridge area of Dublin/Kildare to highlight the fact that superfast fibre broadband was now available. At that time 77% of the Celbridge fibre rollout plan had been completed.
Again in July 2014 they dropped leaflets to homes in the Blackrock area of Dublin to highlight that superfast fibre broadband was now available. At the time of these door drops, 87% of the Blackrock fibre rollout plan had been completed.
With such a high proportion of homes in Celbridge and Blackrock enabled to receive the new fibre broadband technology, the advertisers considered it practical to drop an informative communication in each of these areas despite it reaching some non-fibre enabled homes. Furthermore, they said, each of the communications clearly stated in the terms and conditions that ‘eFibre is subject to availability’.
Finally the advertiser said that customers who contacted them but who could not at the time receive their superfast fibre broadband, were invited to leave their contact details to enable eircom to contact them when the service was available to them.
The Secretariat asked eircom why they had not considered excluding areas that were not fibre enabled from the leaflet drop.
eircom stated that the fibre rollout plan was defined by eircom Wholesale and not by eircom Consumer. They stated that the eircom Wholesale rollout plan was dictated by the location of the eircom exchange cabinet and how many properties can be efficiently served by that cabinet and not by postal area or street address as the eFibre service was based on distant dependent technology. In the circumstances, not all homes within a specific area or street would be fibre enabled at the same time. They also stated that it was possible, with two people living side by side that one was fibre enabled while the other was not, due to the exchange cabinet boundaries being based on serviceable distance from the cabinet and not based on street address. In the circumstances it was not possible for them to ‘cherry pick’ enabled homes for leaflet drops and exclude non-fibre enabled homes given that this type of promotion relied on a mass marketing, non-segmented approach based on general areas.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaints and the advertisers’ responses. They noted that while the advertisers had made reference to the fact that the service was “subject to availability” in the footnote, they considered that this was a significant factor which should have been referenced in the main copy so that the absolute headline claim was sufficiently qualified. In the circumstances the Committee considered that the advertising was in breach of Section 2.24 of the Code.
The advertisement must not run in its current form again.