ISP Tiscali has been ordered to withdraw its direct mailing campaign following a complaint from rival Freeserve which objected to Tiscali's claim that it was Europe's leading ISP.

Tiscali's leaflets clearly stated that it was "Europe's leading ISP". In its defence, the company said it never claimed to be the largest ISP, as Freeserve has inferred. Instead, Tiscali maintains, 'leading' refers to the fact it has the largest geographical coverage of any ISP — its service is accessible to 13 European countries.

But the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) ruled that the term 'leading' could be construed to mean the 'largest'. It ordered the claim be removed.

Freeserve also took issue with its rival's assertion it has "over three million UK members". To reach this number, Tiscali said it defined members as "persons with Tiscali accounts who could potentially use the service for internet access without additional signup procedures or the opening of a new account".

Tiscali argued that there were no universally accepted definitions for 'member' or 'active user'. Its own internal auditors based the three million figure on all Tiscali customers including those with webmail-only access and those who had signed up to other ISPs that Tiscali has since taken over.

The ASA rejected Tiscali's claim. It felt customers would automatically assume three million members meant active subscribers who had signed up to the ISP's own service.

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