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BT Get TalkTalk Super Router Ad Banned for Misleading Performance Claim

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016 (8:14 am) - Score 1,718
talktalk_super_router_hg633

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned a website advert for TalkTalk’s Super Router (Huawei HG633 / HG635) hardware after BT complained that the device was making misleading performance claims, such as one that boasted of delivering “the strongest signal and fastest speeds in the UK.”

At this point we note that BT’s complaint, which relates to TalkTalk’s own product page for the device, appears to date back to May 2015 and we should add that this is about the point when the ISP quietly changed their Super Router from using the HG635 to the HG633 (here). The HG633 came with improved WiFi performance, but it abandoned the HG635’s Gigabit LAN ports.

Otherwise the related page made several bold claims about the router, such as to highlight its alleged “Market leading signal strength“, “provides a stronger signal than BT, Virgin, Sky and EE“, “Fastest speeds in the UK“, “the strongest signal and fastest speeds in the UK“, “on average, 56% faster speeds than routers from the other big providers” and “Reaches parts of your home that the best routers from the other big providers can’t“.

At the time of writing the ISP still appears to be making many of the same claims (here), which we’ve retained below as a screenshot for posterity.

talktalk_super_router_false_advertising

BT complained that sufficient information had not been provided to verify the claims and that the comparisons themselves were misleading. But TalkTalk countered that they had commissioned an independent test facility to conduct the benchmarking, which they said supported their claims and was available via a “consumer friendly” report published on their website.

However the ASA found that the benchmarking report didn’t contain enough information to verify all their claims and that it was also hard to find. On top of that they ruled that the benchmarking was not extensive enough and that the “test had been limited to the transfer of a large file and the router had not been tested for normal user tasks.

ASA Ruling (REF: A15-305012)

We welcomed TalkTalk’s assurance that they would amend the fastest speed claims to state fastest ‘wireless’ speeds. However, the claim “Fastest speeds in the UK” was an absolute claim that the Super Router performed better than its competitors, but because it was based on an average and the results showed that, as with signal strength, the router performed better with the 2.4 Ghz than with the other two Wi-Fi types tested, we considered that the advertising should have made clear that the claim referred to the average fastest (wireless) speed and, as it did not, it was likely to mislead.

Although we understood the method of calculation, it was also unclear how TalkTalk reached the conclusion that the Super Router was “on average, 56% faster speeds than routers from the other big providers”, because the figures appeared to show that the average was less than 50% faster.

We considered that in order to make a general superiority claim, the testing needed to be representative of the activities that users generally performed. However, we noted the test had been limited to the transfer of a large file and the router had not been tested for normal user tasks such as video or voice streaming, transfer of a large number of small files or opening a web page. Although we understood that it was easier to measure and compare speed using a large file, we nonetheless considered that the testing should also have included tests covering general usage patterns. In addition, it was unclear from the test report what steps were taken to ensure that external interference remained comparable for tests on all the different routers and what was done to ensure reasonable placement of the routers in case they exhibited directionality.

For the reasons stated above, we considered that the substantiation was not suitably robust to support the claims made in the advertising and concluded that the claims “Market leading signal strength”, “Our Super Router provides a stronger signal than BT, Virgin, Sky and EE”, “Fastest speeds in the UK”, “TalkTalk’s new Super Router delivers the strongest signal and fastest speeds in the UK”, “on average, 56% faster speeds than routers from the other big providers” and “Reaches parts of your home that the best routers from the other big providers can’t” were likely to mislead.

As usual the ASA banned the advert and told TalkTalk to ensure that their claims accurately reflect the evidence intended to substantiate them and to ensure that they provided sufficient information to enable consumers to verify comparisons.

It’s also worth pointing out that TalkTalk’s benchmarking was update again earlier this year based on a study conducted in late June 2015 (here), although since then Virgin Media has begun circulating a new SuperHub 3 router to new subscribers and Sky Broadband has introduced their new Sky Q Hub. Suffice to say that TalkTalk’s claims have yet to reflect this new kit.

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Mark Jackson
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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6 Responses
  1. Avatar Jonny

    Less crying to the ASA, more effort spent making your own service better please guys.

  2. Avatar Karl

    Agreed why is BT always complaining to the ASA about others? Even more so when they use the same dubious claims in their advertising.

  3. Avatar FibreFred

    They all complain about each other, nothing to see here.

    Apart from trolling of course….

  4. Avatar nobobo

    Well anythings better than the Homehub5

    the HG635 is fantastic compared to other bundled routers.

    No exp with the HG653

    • Avatar Karl

      “Well anythings better than the Homehub5”

      Agreed just a shame BT have made claims about its performance before which are also obviously untrue. The only difference i guess is other providers have better things to do with their time than complain to the ASA constantly.

    • Avatar Evan Crissall

      TalkTalk’s HG633 Super Router is equally impressive.

      The HG633 is based on a new DSL chipset (the VSPM310) from a Chinese company called Triductor. Triductor’s chief engineer previously worked at Broadcom, and brings much experience from the field of Digital Signal Processing (DSP).

      Unusually, the Triductor core is based on an ARM architecture, rather than the obsolete MIPS RISC cores still found in Broadcom and Lantiq SoCs.

      The clockspeed of the Triductor is much higher at 1GHz, and the ARM platform tends to be more efficient, too. The Trimedia SoC also has a dedicated DSP module with hardware support for FFT.

      Meanwhile BT is still shafting its customers with obsolete Lantiq-based kit, in the form of the loathsome HomeHub 5. Equipment which does not even support the G.INP standard properly.

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