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ASA UK Bans BT Broadband Advert for Misleading Performance Claims

Wednesday, Dec 4th, 2013 (6:48 am) - Score 996

The tit for tat advertising war appears to be continuing after a complaint by Sky Broadband (BSkyB) successfully resulted in the banning of another national press advert for BT’s Broadband services, which boldly said “Official. BT Broadband offers better overall performance than Sky and TalkTalk“.

Sky made four complaints against the advert, which depicted a cartoon man holding a wireless router with the relevant text underneath, but only three were upheld. The first upheld complaint alleged that the “overall performance” claim was misleading because it had not taken into account WiFi performance, while the second complaint made a general challenge against the “better … performance” claim.

The third upheld complaint focused upon BT’s use of the term “official“, which Sky felt misleadingly implied that Ofcom had endorsed the headline claim.

ASA Ruling (REF: A13-230866)

1. We considered that, in the absence of any statement to the contrary, consumers were likely to interpret an overall performance claim as encompassing Wi-Fi performance, particularly when the cartoon man featured in the ad was shown holding a wireless router aloft. We acknowledged BT’s argument that, due to its technical specification, the Hub 3 router was likely to offer similar performance to Sky’s and therefore the findings of the report were likely to remain valid, although we noted we had not been provided with any evidence to demonstrate that that was in fact the case. However, because the overall performance claim was explicitly stated to be based on Ofcom’s report and that report had not considered Wi-Fi performance, we concluded that the ad was misleading.

2. We noted that the cartoon man’s shadow which was shown on the wall behind him, took the form of a superhero holding a broadband router, with his cape and hair flowing behind him, which we considered implied that the performance claim was largely related to speed. We understood that download speed was the factor most commonly associated with overall broadband speed and that the Ofcom report had not found that there was any significant difference between BT and Sky in that regard. Because we considered that the ad implied BT customers were likely to experience significantly greater broadband speeds than Sky customers, we concluded that the ad was misleading.

3. Whilst we acknowledged that the Ofcom report described itself as “the most robust presentation of UK fixed-line broadband speeds available”, we noted the report had limited itself to comparing the ISP’s performance in relation to a number of individual metrics and that it had nor drawn any overall conclusions with regard to whether any one ISP’s performance was better than another. Rather, we noted Ofcom had stated that it was important consumers understood the impact the various metrics would have on broadband performance, so they could choose the service that would best meet their individual needs. We therefore considered that it was misleading for BT to imply that the headline claim was taken directly from Ofcom’s findings, rather than their own interpretation of them, when that was not the case.

As usual the ASA warned BT that the advert should not appear again in its current form.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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