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ASA UK Ban Misleading EE Superfast 4G Mobile Claim After BT Moan

Wednesday, Jul 31st, 2013 (7:35 am) - Score 1,052

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a website advert for EE’s 4G (4GEE) based Mobile Broadband service after rival ISP BT complained that its claim to offer a “superfast” service was misleading because it didn’t meet the governments minimum speed definition of greater than 24Mbps (Megabits).

BT also made an identical but unsuccessful claim against one of EE’s TV adverts, which featured Kevin Bacon saying, “to make the most of the latest 4G smartphones, hook one up to UK’s only superfast mobile 4G network. It’s totes amazeballs. Watch out Brentford that’s me, ready for the Sugar hut. Smartphones are better on superfast mobile 4G. Only on EE“.

Apparently the key reason why the website advert was banned but the TV promotion was not is primarily because the latter clarified what it meant by saying the service was “based on average UK speeds. 3G: 1.5 Mbps, 4GEE: 8-12 Mbps (Ofcom and EE data)” and that the speeds “depend on location and number of users“.

The ASA also noted that the term “superfast” had come into common usage in relation to fixed line broadband following the introduction of new access technologies (e.g. FTTC, FTTP etc.) and that it was used to distinguish itself from those speeds previously achieved by up to 24Mbps ADSL2+ services. It also noted that Ofcom defined superfast as both greater than 24Mbps and, later, 30Mbps to match the EU.

ASA Ruling (REF: A13-225046)

Because most consumers were unlikely to be familiar with the capabilities of 4G, we considered that, without qualification, many consumers would therefore understand that the “superfast” definition that applied to fixed line broadband could also apply to 4G and therefore, by implication, that the achievable speeds were from 24 Mbit/s (and later 30 Mbit/s). Because the achievable speeds were in the region of 8–12 Mbit/s (which varied depending on a variety of factors) we concluded that without qualification the ad, and specifically the term “superfast mobile broadband” exaggerated the broadband speeds that could be achieved through 4GEE mobile and therefore concluded that the ad was misleading.”

As usual the website advert was banned and EE warned to ensure that any future website adverts include clear qualifications for the “superfast” claim. But it should be said that EE has recently started rolling out a new 4G speed upgrade across their network, which touts peak speeds of 80-150Mbps and average speeds of 24-30Mbps. So in other words they might soon be able to advertise “superfast“, without qualification, again.

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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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