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BT and Openreach Dodge Shotgun Blast of UK Advertising Complaints

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016 (9:06 am) - Score 457
advertising standards authority uk 2016

The UK Advertising Standards Authority has rejected a string of complaints against a TV advert for BT’s broadband services and a moan by the Broadband for Rural Devon & Somerset (B4RDS) project, which questioned Openreach’s £10.5bn capital investment claims for their national network.

In the first case some 8 people complained that a TV advert for the “biggest ever BT sale“, which was seen in February 2016, contained on-screen text at the bottom of the ad (the bit with significant conditions for their offer) that was “not clearly legible“.

However the ASA noted that the size, time on screen (present for the full length of the 40 second advert) and presentation met their standards. “We considered that on-screen text was legible and the size, appearance and the length of time on screen was sufficient to allow viewers to read it. We therefore concluded that the ad was unlikely to mislead viewers,” said the ruling.

Perhaps of more interest is the claim by B4RDS that a press advert for Openreach (BT’s network access division), which was also seen in February 2016, had attempted to mislead readers by claiming that their network is “open to over 500 companies and their customers on equal terms” and that “BT has invested over £20 billion in communications infrastructure over the last decade, including £10.5bn in Openreach’s network“.

The B4RDS team challenged the 500 companies claim because “they understood that other [ISPs] did not have access to elements of the Openreach network” (A). Likewise they questioned whether the £10.5bn investment claim was accurate “because they understood that while Openreach’s profits had increased over the previous ten years, capital investment in the Openreach network had not shown a corresponding increase, and had instead remained relatively constant” (B). Once again both complaints were rejected.

ASA Ruling:

Complaint A.

We understood that BT had an agreement with Ofcom that required Openreach to treat all ISPs equally in terms of providing them with an equivalent service. Therefore, we understood that all ISPs who wished to use the network could do so under the same terms. Because we considered that consumers would understand the claim to mean that all ISPs had the same access to the Openreach network, under the same terms, and that was the case, we concluded that it was not misleading.

Complaint B.

We considered that consumers would interpret the claim to mean that BT had invested £10.5 billion into the Openreach infrastructure, to improve and expand the network, over the last ten years. We did not consider that consumers were likely to have any expectations regarding the proportion of Openreach’s income that that investment represented as a result of reading the claim.

We noted that the relevant annual reports confirmed that Openreach had invested just over £10.5 billion in “Capital expenditure” over the preceding ten years (2006-2015). Because of that, we concluded that the claim was unlikely to mislead.

The Openreach complaints make for an interesting contrast against the backdrop of yesterday’s Strategic Review statement from Ofcom, which did suggest that Openreach should have invested more into its national broadband network (here) and must also become more accessible to rivals (Cable Duct and Pole Access etc.), albeit viewed via a very different context from the above gripes.

Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. Avatar fastman

    Mark the basis of the complaint was fundamentally Flawed — so not sure dodged is anyway the right word

  2. Avatar Steve Jones

    “BT and Openreach Dodge Shotgun Blast of UK Advertising Complaints”

    Dodge? Odd wording. What seems to have happened is that the ASA found no merit in the complaints, not that anything was didged which sounds a bit shifty.

  3. Avatar Jonny

    I’m not really sure how petitioning the ASA with poorly-researched arguments furthers the objectives of a broadband campaign group. Maybe someone just got frustrated?

  4. Avatar fastman

    johhny think more fundamental than that — they actually believe it !!!!

  5. Avatar fastman

    diinformation and misinformation unbfrotunately Is rife on that board

    • Avatar brianv

      If anyone should recognise disinformation – especially BT disinfo – then that’s you Fastman, the world’s greatest contributor of BT disinfo!

  6. Avatar fastman

    Brian V

    no disinformation from me — I can assure you

    so where do think I have provided disinformation

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