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ASA UK Ban BT Infinity Superfast Broadband Ads for Misleading Speed Claims

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 (7:59 am) - Score 895

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld four complaints by Virgin Media against a press (a), TV (b) and internet promotion (c) for the BTInfinity superfast broadband ISP service. The ASA deemed BT’s claims that its service was “unbeatable” and offered “three times faster fibre optic broadband” to be misleading.

As usual the ASA’s ruling comes somewhat after the fact because all of the adverts originally displayed on 6th August 2011, with the TV advert continuing until 25th September 2011. Interestingly nearly all of Virgin Media’s complaints towards BT were upheld because the ISP either did not state its service speeds or the basis for their various related comparisons.

This is an important decision, not least because some ISPs have now stopped promoting their broadband speeds in public (e.g. TalkTalk, Orange UK etc.), which could affect similar claims in the future. This follows a stiffening of the rules by ASA/CAP earlier this month (full details).

VirginMedia’s Complaints

1. VirginMedia and three complainants challenged whether the “unbeatable” claims in ads (a), (b) and (c) were misleading and could be substantiated.

VirginMedia also challenged whether:

2. the “unbeatable” claims in ads (a), (b), and (c) were misleading, because they did not state the speed was available with certain packages only;

3. the claim “Do more online with three times faster fibre optic broadband. Whether you’re into uploading photos and videos to Facebook, downloading all your favourite albums fast or streaming HD movies …” in ad (a) was misleading and could be substantiated, because VirginMedia did not believe BT’s speeds were faster for all the activities listed; and

4. the claim “Four times faster broadband” in ad (c) was misleading and could be substantiated, because it did not state the basis of the comparison.

The ASA ultimately chose to ban all of the adverts, with one particularly poignant remark for the first complaint stating, “we had not seen evidence that BT’s download speeds were unbeatable“. The second complaint was upheld because BT’s “speeds would be received only by those consumers who purchased the Option 2 package” (i.e. the faster 10Mbps upload speeds).

The third complaint was upheld because BT’s claim to “do more online with three times faster fibre optic broadband … had not been substantiated“. The final (4th) complaint was upheld because “the information [comparison] should have been included in the ad“.

As usual the ASA warned BT that its ads must not appear again in their current form, which won’t be a problem because they last ran them in 2011.

ASA Ruling (Complaint Ref:A11-170900)
http://www.asa.org.uk/ASA-action/Adjudications/2012/4/British-Telecommunications-plc/SHP_ADJ_170900.aspx

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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