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ASA UK Bans Sky Broadband’s 99.9% Core Network Reliability Claim

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 (7:52 am) - Score 1,136

A complaint by Virgin Media has prompted the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to ban Sky Broadband’s apparently “misleading” claim of being able to offer “99.9% core network reliability“.

The issue stemmed from a promotion on Sky’s website, which boldly headlined with “99.9% SKY NETWORK RELIABILITY” and added that Sky delivered “super reliable, totally unlimited Sky Broadband … Sky Broadband Unlimited has 99.9% core network reliability.”

The ISP also qualified the above statement by saying: “Sky’s network delivers 99.9% average uptime to your local exchange. Sky’s network is part of your overall connection and other factors affect your overall reliability (e.g. home wiring, equipment & websites you visit). Sky Network areas only.”

But Virgin Media complained that Sky’s core network only handled a small proportion of the data flow required to download online content or access a web page and challenged whether the ad misleadingly implied that the reliability of a consumer’s complete broadband service was 99.9%. The ASA ultimately felt that the claim could confuse consumers and ruled it misleading.

ASA Ruling (Ref: A14-289042)

Notwithstanding that the qualification contained the wording “Sky’s network is part of your overall connection”, we were concerned that consumers would not be aware of the distinction between an internet service provider’s core network and users’ overall internet connection. We also considered that, given the language used, some consumers would not be aware of the meaning of the wording “average uptime to your local exchange” in respect of Sky’s delivery of data.

Further, the examples that would affect overall connection reliability referred to at the end of the qualification only included in-home factors such as home wiring or equipment. The examples did not account for the section from the point of local telephone exchange up to the point the cabling and wiring entered consumers’ homes. We understood that Sky did not have control over the reliability of this portion of the connection, which could also have an impact on overall connection reliability. We acknowledged Sky had said that they were willing to amend the qualification to include more details about the factors that could affect the reliability of a user’s overall connection.

For the above reasons, we considered that the presentation of the claim, in conjunction with the wording of the qualification, gave an overall impression that the headline claim “99.9% Sky network reliability” referred to customers’ complete broadband service. We therefore concluded the ad was misleading.”

Ironically today’s ruling comes hot on the heels of a major break in one of Sky’s fibre optic cables, which has been affecting customers on Sky Broadband’s network around the Hampshire and Dorset areas.

The ASA ultimately banned the advert in its current form and told Sky to “ensure [future] claims based on the reliability rate of their core network were qualified in future ads to make clear the extent of what these claims were based on and any significant factors that would impact on the reliability of consumers’ overall internet connection.

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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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