Regulator bans British Gas DM ad

LONDON - The Advertising Standards Authority has banned a direct mailing from British Gas that claimed to offer "free gas for a year".

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The mailing promised British Gas customers that if they bought a new boiler from the company, they could claim free gas up to the value of £800. A footnote stated the price used was based on August 2007's gas prices, and would not include further cost increases in 2008.

British Gas increased gas prices twice in 2008, by 15 per cent in January and 35 per cent in July.

A recipient of the mailing complained he had not been redeemed the full amount for his gas costs and therefore the ad was misleading.

The advertiser believed the mailing clearly explained how customers’ gas payments would be calculated. The payments corresponded to the ‘amount of gas used’ as opposed to the actual price paid.

The ASA felt the footnote explaining the procedure by which customers could redeem their gas bill should have been more prominent on the ad, as it was likely to significantly alter the reader’s understanding of the headline claim.

As gas prices increased over the year, customers would not receive "free gas for a year", and therefore the watchdog concluded the ad was misleading. The mailing must not be used again in its current form.