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ASA UK Put the Advertising of Network Adapter Speeds Under a Spotlight

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014 (8:47 am) - Score 1,039

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a website ad for ZyXEL’s PLA4201 500Mbps Mini Powerline Ethernet Adaptor after two people complained that the performance claims were “misleading“, not least because the adapter itself only offered a 100Mbps (RJ-45) capable Ethernet port. Admittedly this isn’t strictly ISP related, but it’s still interesting.

At present it’s quite normal to see network adapters (e.g. Powerline or WiFi) being sold alongside big claims about top performance, with some even promoting figures of several Gigabits per second (i.e. Local Area Network [LAN] speeds). But in reality we all know that the top speeds of such devices are rarely achieved in the real-world and thus some of the complaints against ZyXEL could thus just as easily be levelled against many other manufacturers.

In ZyXEL’s case they actually explained that the 500Mbps figure represented only the theoretical credentials of their Powerline chipset, which might have been fine had they not also hobbled the device itself via a single 100Mbps port and thus nothing even remotely close to the top speed could ever possibly be achieved (note: in reality most 500Mbps Powerline kit we see rarely deliver much more than 70-90Mbps real-world, hence the 100Mbps port).

ASA Statement (details)

Because we had not seen robust documentary evidence to demonstrate that the advertised product could achieve transfer speeds of 500 Mbps, we considered the claims had not been substantiated and therefore breached the Code.”

The advert also stated that ZyXEL’s adapter “improves up to 60% performance for stable HD media streaming compared with 200Mbps powerline technology **” (the asterisks did not link to further text), which the manufacturer said related to the average improvement in the stability of the network connection between the advertised product and the 200Mbps version of the Powerline product that they supplied (i.e. when subjected to attenuation of between 60db and 90db). But the ASA said this wasn’t good enough.

ASA Statement

We considered consumers were unlikely to interpret the claim in that way; rather we considered the precise meaning of the claim was unclear to consumers. We understood that both complainants had interpreted the claim to mean that the advertised product could achieve a data transfer rate that was 60% higher than the 200 Mbps version of the Powerline product and considered that to be a reasonable interpretation of the claim. Because the meaning of the claim was unclear to consumers and did not reflect the advertiser’s intended claim, we considered the claim was likely to mislead.”

The ASA banned the adverts in their current form and warned ZyXEL to ensure that “transfer speeds were accurate and capable of robust substantiation in future“. The authority also told the company to ensure that their claims were presented clearly and were not likely to mislead consumers.

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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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