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ASA UK Criticise EE Coverage Map After Misleading 3G Mobile Claim

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013 (8:23 am) - Score 940
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The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has told EE to correct the mobile coverage checker on their website after a T-Mobile consumer complained that the 3G based Mobile Broadband coverage for their postcode was reported by the service as “EXCELLENT“, even though they could not receive any indoor signal and only had a poor service outside.

In fairness the map does say underneath that it is “only a guide and not a guarantee of service availability in a particular location. It shows outdoor coverage only and may include locations where mobile devices don’t work. As with all radio-based systems, service may be affected by a number of local factors, such as building materials, tree cover and weather conditions“.

EE also conducted a post-complaint “drive” test to assess coverage in the complainant’s postcode and apparently this appeared to support the original claim of “EXCELLENT” coverage, which has continued to be promoted by the checker. Unfortunately none of this was quite enough to satisfy the ASA.

ASA Ruling (REF: A13-231626)

Nevertheless, we noted the claims that appeared under the “coverage results” were presented in language that was not conditional and considered the overall impression of the ad was such that it was likely to be understood to mean that “Fast, Reliable internet access and high quality calling” was “Available on 4GEE, Orange and T-Mobile plans” to consumers in the relevant postcode. We also considered consumers were likely to understand the ad to mean that T-Mobile offered “EXCELLENT” coverage in the postcode.

We acknowledged the qualification that appeared below the map, which we understood related to the map only, stated that it related to outdoor coverage only and that it was intended only as a guide due to the range of factors that affected coverage. However, for the reasons given, we considered the ad did not make sufficiently clear that the claims that appeared under the “coverage results” were intended as a guide and that coverage could be affected by a range of factors. We therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code.”

Mobile coverage is notoriously variable due to many of the aspects mentioned above, not to mention what device you use. Never the less that ASA ruled that the “ad must not appear again in its current form” and warned T-Mobile (EE) to ensure that their future advertising “made immediately clear the conditional nature of coverage checker results“.

This slightly odd ruling is likely to have an impact upon similar coverage maps provided by other mobile operators. EE has since added some additional information to its map and toned down a few words but it remains broadly the same.

Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Avatar dragoneast

    Perhaps it would be best if all ads/info were just meaningless puff, which just about matches the public level of understanding anyway.

  2. Avatar George Lloyd

    EE are not the only guilty ones, O2 claims the coverage where I live is excellent yet we struggle to get a signal.

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