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Three UK Gets EE Adverts Banned for “Misleading” 4G Speed Comparison

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016 (8:17 am) - Score 1,026
ee_4g_mobile_broadband_speed

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned a TV, press and website advert for EE’s mobile network after Three UK and two members of the public complained that they included “misleading” comparisons of 4G speed.

Generally speaking most of the research we’ve seen does appear to indicate that EE’s 4G network is faster than that of their rivals at O2, Three UK and Vodafone, which tends to reflect their wider UK network coverage, larger pool of spectrum and strong use of LTE-Advanced network technology in urban areas (examples here and here).

The promotions in question, which ran between April and May 2016, attempted to highlight this by using some big percentages. For example, the first advert (a) on EE’s website stated that their 4G network was “75% faster” than Three UK and “70% faster” than O2 and Three UK.

Meanwhile a Press (b) and TV (c) advert similarly claimed that EE were “50% faster than O2, Vodafone and Three“. All of these appeared to be based on the results from Ookla’s 2015 speed awards and study (we’ve linked their more recent 2016 award above), but the ASA found that EE had failed to make the base of comparison for these claims sufficiently clear (i.e. the text was too small, unlinked or appeared too far down in the advert to be easily seen).

In other words, EE might still be faster than their rivals but their adverts merely failed to make the comparison source as clear as it needed to be.

ASA Ruling (REF: A16-342729)

Because the claims related to an annual award based on testing over a particular time period only, but the ads did not explain that adequately, we concluded that ads (a), (b) and (c) were likely to mislead.

On this point ads (a) and (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.33 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).

On this point ad (c) breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Substantiation) and 3.33 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).

Interestingly the website advert (a) also included a claim that EE’s “4G network is 50% faster than any other,” but the complaint against this one was dropped by the ASA because that specific claim appeared to make clear reference to Ookla’s 2015 speed award, while oddly the other claims in the same promotion (e.g. “75% faster than Three“) did not.

An EE Spokesperson said:

“Contrary to reports, the ASA ruled that our 50% faster claim was not misleading. They confirmed that our claim was 100% accurate and that it was based on reliable, independent tests. The claim expired in October 2016, and the ad had been replaced before this ruling was confirmed.

They did, however, say that we should have made it clearer to customers that the claim was based on tests from a specific time period. We know the importance of being transparent about the network experience consumers can expect, so we will make sure our top independent network rankings and awards are presented more clearly in future.”

As usual the ASA told EE to ensure that in the future their adverts “did not suggest that comparisons were accurate at the time the claim was published unless they held adequate evidence“.

UPDATE 11am

Added a comment from EE above.

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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.
Leave a Comment
3 Responses
  1. Avatar brianv

    Misleading headline. The miscreant is EE. The aggrieved was Three.

  2. Avatar John

    can you read BrianV? as you are wrong.

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