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Hyperoptic 1Gbps Broadband Advert Banned for Looking Like a BT Letter

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 (7:26 am) - Score 2,550
hyperoptic van parked outside mdu

Fibre optic ISP Hyperoptic, which supplies up to 1Gbps FTTP/B broadband services to large buildings in many UK urban areas, has had one of its circular adverts banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) because the promotion looked too much like an official communication from BT.

The promotion itself (received in February 2017) was addressed to “The Resident” and stated at the top-left of the front page, albeit only in small print, that it had been “Sent by Hyperoptic Ltd. If undelivered, please return to [their address]” and similarly on the foot of the front page some terms and conditions for the offer were listed.

However one individual complained that the circular “looked like a communication from BT” and the ASA noted that text on the back page stated “Your BT CONTRACT is about to cost you even more…” and appeared to be in the visual form of a contract with reference numbers and other such details. Only a piece of small print at the bottom stated “PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS NOT GENUINE [sic] A BT CONTRACT, OBVIOUSLY.”

Sadly we don’t have a copy of the ad, which we assume was posted through letterboxes, although Hyperoptic were adamant of their belief that it “was obviously identifiable as a marketing communication, and not correspondence from BT.” The ISP also noted that they’d utilised the format and design of their circular twice before, each time to 50,000+ people, and had not previously received any complaints.

Nevertheless the ASA has form in this area and they don’t tend to approve of promotions that attempt to look like something they are not.

ASA Ruling (REF: A17-385414)

We noted that the back of the circular contained text at the top stating a scheme reference number and membership number. It also referred to “Your BT contract” in large red print at the top and that below that the first sentence of text began with the underlined word “IMPORTANT”. We considered those factors gave the impression that the circular was commercial correspondence which related specifically to the recipient.

The following text was set out to look like a contract; in particular, the parties were listed at the top (“1st Party: Service Provider and 2nd Party: The Customer”) and the information underneath was set out in paragraphs which resembled clauses in a legal contract. We noted the tear design in the middle of the page, where the circular opened up, and the icon over the fake tear which stated “Break free & beat the price rise”, as well as the small print at the bottom of the page which stated “Please note: this is not genuine [sic] contract, obviously”.

We considered that recipients who took time to engage with the back of the circular would identify its true nature, which became even clearer to those who opened it. However, we considered that it was, nevertheless, not obvious that the circular was a marketing communication and was not private commercial correspondence. Because we considered the marketing communication was not obviously identifiable as such, we concluded that the ad breached the Code.

As usual the promotion was banned and Hyperoptic were told to ensure that future marketing communications were obviously identifiable as such.

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Mark Jackson

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.

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41 Responses
  1. Graham Long

    It is appalling that the ASA wastes time stopping Hyperoptic advertising because it looks like BT advertising when for years now they have allowed the likes of Virgin and other copper broadband suppliers from brainwashing the public into believing that copper is in fact fibre. Look at this page on the Virging website that shows a picture of a Virgin coax copper cable labeled “Virgin Fibre” and another of a copper twisted pair wire labelled “BT Infinity an Sky Fibre”! See
    http://www.virginmedia.com/shop/broadband.html
    Rather than plattling around hindering companies like Hyperoptic from giving customers the pure fibre broadband theyactually want, Chris Smith and his friends at the ASA should be doing their job properly and take down advertising that is a blatant lie, trying to persuade the unwitting public that copper is fibre. This cannot happen in France where the Franch ASA requires all broadband suppliers to specify the medium that their broadband signals enter a property on.

    • MikeW

      Terrible whataboutery for a public official

    • GNewton

      @Graham Long: I have to agree, the ASA has become a laughing stock.

    • Mel

      Well, Virgin just call it fibre, not optic fibre, don’t they? And coax is made of metal fibres isn’t it 🙂 No, actually I agree with you. Maybe they should rename it Virgin Fibber.

      About time the ASA also stopped among other things, LCD TV’s that are lit using LEDs being sold as LED TVs, and TVs ads putting exclusion clauses up in white text on a white background to make them difficult to read.

    • New_Londoner

      @Graham
      Ironic that you defend Hyperoptic for mis-representation because you believe that it happens to sell “full fibre”; this doesn’t relate to the issue at hand. In any case, I presume you’re aware that Hyperoptic does not sell full fibre, it uses an FTTB network to sell capacity on contended leased lines that are usually connected to apartments using cat 5 copper cable.

      So apart from being neither relevant nor factual, your defence that it should be able to get away with Mia-representation because it sells full fibre is fine! 😉

    • New_Londoner

      ^^^^

      mis-representation (@£&/()* autocorrect!)

    • GNewton

      @New_Londoner: Two wrongs don’t make a right. However, compared to the constant highly mis-leading BT and VM ads the one from Hyperoptic, though not right, is less misleading. The fact is, ASA is doing a poor job!

  2. Graham Long

    Yes Mark, I am aware that it is again on the ASA’s “todo” list and I have given them evidence of Virgin’s lies, but when they looked at it last – last year, they decided not to take any action because they said that so long as some of the connection from the server to the client runs over fibre, the whole connection can be described as “fibre”. That is like building the M4 from London to Bristol but leaving the road between Swindon and Bristol as a 2 lane “B” clas road but still calling the whole length a motorway. The ASA, as with so many government organisations, have a very poor understanding of the difference between fibre and copper broadband technologies.

    • CarlT

      The ASA are aware of the technical issues and made a judgment call. Whether you agree with it or not, and I don’t, that’s the way it is until they change it. It has no relevance to this.

    • Graham Long

      There is nothing to say the ASA will ever change the ruling on what advertisers can call fibre and as long all the big copper suppliers get away with decribing copper as fibre and are therfore able to keep capital costs down and profits up by not laying fibre, they will be lobbying the ASA hard to leave things just as they are. That is why the UK does not even appear on the FTTH Council Europe’s league table of fibre connections because use of fibre in the UK is lower than in any other European country”! See http://ftthcouncil.eu/documents/PressReleases/2017/PR20170215_FTTHranking_panorama_award.pdf

    • TheFacts

      @GL – Who cares what the so called ‘Fibre to the Home Council’ thinks. They are simply a suppliers organisation trying to sell their products.

      Surely as important is the actual speeds people can get and if they are fit for their purpose.

      What can you do with 980M that you can’t with 100M from VM?

    • Ultraspeedy

      “What can you do with 980M that you can’t with 100M from VM?”

      Use 880M more. (ask a stupid question get a stupid answer).

      You seem to have forgotten about uploads also which are also 1Gb on that product from Hyperoptic.

  3. Graham Long

    Mr “The Facts”, whoever you are, there is one thing you can do with pure fibre that you cannot do with DOCSIS copper coax and that is never have to replace it, because it is future proof. If you think you are going to be happy with your 100Mbps Virgin coax for the next 5 years then think again because you will at some stage have to pay to have it replaced by fibre. And if you think that the FTTH Council have an agenda to get more fibre in use, (which of course they do), you could always start the “Copper To The Home Council for Europe”!

    • MikeW

      Yup. The UK has one of the crappiest deployments of full-fibre.

      But we have one of the best deployments of NGA/superfast-capable kit.
      More importantly, we have good takeup of those superfast packages.

      The FTTH Council only care that you buy their fibre, and put it in the ground. They don’t care if anything runs on it. They don’t care that it becomes too expensive, so that people either don’t buy services, or only buy the slowest package … packages that don’t yet /need/ fibre to run.

      Jam today.

      As for jam tomorrow, you have seen the improvements being worked on for synchronous multi-gigabit DOCSIS and G.Fast right? The FTTHCo equivalents already exist – groups like Celtic+, 4GBB, HFCC and Gold on one side, and the Cable Labs group on the other.

      The reasons we had a crap full-fibre rollout 8 years ago are legion. The reasons we still have that situation is because the technology improvements means there’s less need for it compared to when Japan and South Korea started theirs.

      It is getting to the point that, for some places, your “never have to replace it” will apply to the copper already there.

      Still awful whataboutery for a public official.

    • CarlT

      Coax can handle 3+ GHz of bandwidth. A symmetrical 10Gb standard was just approved. No-one is going to need to trade HFC for a full fibre solution. If they wish to that’s their call of course.

    • New_Londoner

      @Graham
      I’m pretty sure that the so-called “FTTH Council of Europe “ does not care about full fibre, cares very much about selling its members hardware as its really the FTTH Hardware Council of Europe.

      If installed properly, and using the appropriate topology, you’re right that you might never need to replace fibre. You of course overlooked the potential upgrade or replacement of obsolete hardware over time, and ignored the many instances of poorly designed fibre networks and poorly installed fibre.

      You also missed the significant progress being made with speeds over copper networks highlighted by others, including future DOCSIS upgrades, XG.Fast etc. These matter as the cost savings from not having to replace copper are significant; many of your constituents wouldn’t thank you if their bills rose unnecessarily.

      By all means let’s have a debate, but let’s not miss out inconvenient facts à la Donald Trump!

    • Salek

      You do realise – electric copper wires power the fibre connections, how else is the laser transmission created, that travel through the fibre optic cables,

      Electric copper cables power the equipments to generate the signals > Fibre optics cables carry the light signal > Electric copper cables power the equipments to decode the signals,

      to put the above in its most simplest form we are always going to have copper somewhere in the equations

  4. Jon

    doesn’t take long for things to go off topic does it

    • FibreFred

      It was never on topic. We don’t want to bash hyperoptic for blatant naughtyness so let’s bash someone else.

  5. Mel

    The ASA have probably done them a favour, as it doesn’t sound a great way to attract new customers in the first place.

    I’m not a fan of junk mail at the best of times, but when I receive one that purports to be something important from someone else to grab my attention, it makes me think that the sender is probably a bit dodgy, and I screw it up and toss it in the bin.

  6. PaulM

    “However one individual complained that the circular “looked like a communication from BT””

    “looked like” so i assume they knew it wasnt in which to complain in the first place?

    Im off to complain all modern cars look like each other. Marketing material sent to probably thousands and only 1 person had an issue, arguably they have bigger issues than the sent material.

  7. brian

    Funny the people defending this marketing. If BT had sent a flyer out mocked up like a B4RN circular for example, you guys would be going nuts on here right now.

    • FibreFred

      Exactly.

    • PaulM

      Do you have a copy of the advert/letter concerned? Without it you are assuming according to a singular complaint it was similar in design.

    • FibreFred

      Have you read the article?

    • PaulM

      Yes it clearly says “However one individual complained that the circular “looked like a communication from BT” Hard to take a single complaint necessary without any presented evidence of their accusation, i assumed you would have a copy of the advert/letter concerned as you agree with the single complaint.

    • Gadget

      So we have one complaint over 3 mailshots which we can assume were all 50k, so 1 in 150k.

      Now in 2012 let say BT’s NGA coverage was 45%. or around 11.5m homes and businesses, applying that ratio of complaint to hits you would get approx. 75 complaints on that size audience
      .
      In fact only 15 complaints were received about the accuracy of the date (https://www.asa.org.uk/rulings/british-telecommunications-plc-a12-209611.html) – so 5 times more people complained about this Hyperoptic leaflet than did about the dates published on the BT checker.

      So in this case the fact that only one complaint was received should not dismiss this ruling and it could be argued that to get to one complaint with that size of leaflet drop shows a higher level of dissatisfaction than with one of the more well known and commented on complaints in the high-speed broadband universe.

    • PaulM

      Only problem with that assumption is you assuming all “11.5m homes and businesses” across the country which wanted NGA access back in 2012/13 looked at the BT website.

      can you demonstrate all 11.5M saw the stated BT material?

    • PaulM

      Oh and as suspected looks nothing like official BT mailing material. Only mistake they made was probably putting the words BT contract at the top in bright red, they should know some people (idiot element) would not look beyond that.

      Right the ASA banned it as we have to protect even the idiots.

  8. FibreFred

    They’ve been told off before doing similar, last time there mailshot looked like a failed amazon delivery

    https://www.asa.org.uk/rulings/hyperoptic-ltd-a16-341693.html

    • Ultraspeedy

      Where does that complaint mention anything about Amazon?

      Also seems to only be a single complaint again, probably the same individual. Quite how any confusion can occur over a missed delivery card and an item of mail which has its print on an envelope and then further content inside the envelope boggles the mind entirely.

      Clearly its someone with too much time on their hands, or someone that has an issue with a decent fibre company doing business in a light hearted way. Probably a bit of both.

    • PaulM

      “Where does that complaint mention anything about Amazon?”

      Maybe that was his/their original complaint? He seems to know an a lot more about the complaints than what is mentioned.

    • PaulM

      Is there any other reason you mentioned Amazon?

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