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ASA Ban TalkTalk UK ISP Adverts for Misleading Better WiFi Claims

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019 (7:16 am) - Score 4,457

Budget ISP TalkTalk has become the third broadband provider this year to have several adverts banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over misleading claims about the WiFi performance of their bundled router hardware, which occurred after a complaint by BT prompted the watchdog to investigate.

Accurately benchmarking the performance of wireless networking technology is notoriously difficult, although that has never stopped ISPs from trying to claim that their kit is better than the others. Indeed so far this year we’ve already seen several adverts being banned for Sky Broadband’s Q Hub (here) and BT’s Smart Hub (here) devices for just that reason.

In this latest example BT complained to the ASA that a TV, radio and website advert for TalkTalk’s broadband service had made several claims that could not be substantiated, not least by promising potential customers that they “won’t get a better Wi-Fi signal from any of the other big providers” or “a Wi-Fi signal that can’t be beaten by any of the other big providers.”

In its defence TalkTalk said they did conduct a number of tests to check the router’s performance against rival devices and “did not believe consumers would understand the claim to be solely based on how far a signal reached.” The ASA found fault with both of these and upheld the complaint.

ASA Ruling (REF: A18-469302)

We sought advice from Ofcom regarding the evidence submitted by TalkTalk. The testing was only carried out in one test house with no accompanying tests in real consumer homes. We considered that it was in principle acceptable to only conduct tests in test houses as they could create a set of standardised, reproducible conditions.

However, they needed to demonstrate that the environment was typical of normal use and conditions, for instance by reflecting the level of interference in real consumer homes. In this case, however, only co-channel interference from one other Wi-Fi network was tested for, while TalkTalk had not tested for any forms of non-Wi-Fi interference that would be present in consumers’ homes.

We therefore considered that the tests were insufficient to reflect the interference that typically occurred in everyday homes. Furthermore, no recording of the levels of Wi-Fi interference at the time each router was tested had been provided, meaning that we were unable to verify that all the routers tested were subjected to consistent levels of interference.

We also noted that the routers were only positioned facing one direction, and were not rotating (for instance on turntables) when the Wi-Fi signal was being tested. Therefore, we could not be certain that the reported performance differences between the routers only occurred at the specific angle at which they had been placed. Because the evidence was insufficient to demonstrate that TalkTalk’s router’s provided as strong a signal as any other major provider, we concluded that the claims … had not been substantiated, and were therefore misleading.

As usual the adverts were all banned in their current form and the advertising watchdog told TalkTalk not to make comparative claims about their router in future based on “inadequate testing,” which is something they would know already if they’d bothered to read up on the ASA’s prior rulings against similar claims by other ISPs.

In fairness TalkTalk’s W-Fi Hub router is definitely one of the more capable bundled devices you can receive from a provider today but proving that requires a lot more effort on the part of an ISP. Furthermore ISPs are constantly updating their kit and as a result such claims, even when proven true, tend to have a rather limited half-life. We’re expecting new routers from Virgin Media and Sky Broadband soon.

Leave a Comment
15 Responses
  1. Avatar Marko says:

    I have latest Talk Talk router, performance is not great plus they have stripped the router os of important functionality.

    1. Avatar Gordon says:

      Talk talk new router is rubbish ,no better than the old one that was heating up .the range wont reach my bedroom ,the range is poor and I live in a small council house ,I tryed my old router and it’s no better .just another con I’m afraid

  2. Avatar Mark says:

    I don’t even bother with WiFi personally, if its a device that I need fast Internet for (Smart TV, Xbox etc) I’ll use Powerline Ethernet. I find all ISP Routers to be utter rubbish when it comes to WiFi, my phones portable hot-spot gives a better signal!

    1. Avatar Dominic Davis-Foster says:

      I had the Fritzbox 7530 from Zen. Supposedly really good and costs £135 on Amazon. Utter garbage in every respect, not just Wi-Fi performance

  3. Avatar Zen says:

    Glad now been published ,been complaining since April 2019,every week I need to chat from there Asia,Philippines,India,south africa n nigeria call center service ,take you hour saying they working on it,now got message from talk talk if I wish to cancel my contract cause they cannot perform the service they promise.what about refund on those months I got no internet line ,nothing offer just you off n fine a new provider .

    1. Avatar Gareth says:

      I’ve been with TalkTalk for years on fibre. To be fair the fibre has always been fast and I get full speeds of 84.5Mbps which is the fastest the line supports. If you have a billing problem though, it’s an utter joke! None of their staff are English, they are people who probably don’t even know what fibre is!

      I’ve tried for weeks to get a refund on over-billing but simply gave up.

      I decided to try my luck and ring EE who I have a SIM Only deal with as their same package is £42 a month which only costs me £27.50 on TT.

      I told them how stressed I was trying to deal with TT and the operator (in the UK!) came back with an offer of same speed I am on now, unlimited usage, £26 a month for 18 month with NO price rises whilst in contract. He said that if for any reason they did raise the price, they would give 30 days notice and I would be able to leave free.

      They are also paying off my final bill to TalkTalk up to £50 🙂

    2. Avatar GNewton says:

      “been with TalkTalk for years on fibre”

      I don’t think it is fibre line, more likely a VDSL line.

      Just shows you can’t take the ASA serious, it doesn’t want people to know what fibre broadband actually is. Instead it keeps itself busy with minor things like WiFi adverts.

  4. Avatar Tracey Foy says:

    I have refused to pay them I wanted to leave, because they were useless then informed me I was on a two year contract and I owed them money a large amount and kept on putting late fees on the internet wasn’t very good at all.

  5. Avatar Dominic Davis-Foster says:

    I find it wrong that the broadband providers can make ANY claims about Wi-Fi performance. Who provides your broadband has no bearing at all on how fast the Wi-Fi in your home is

    1. Avatar Badem says:

      Agreed, some devices are slightly better than others due to the software/firmware/hardware but of you have a house with these new fangled ‘Quickbuild’ components that are foil insulation lined than the building is going to impact wifi regardless of how advanced it is.

      If you want fast wifi throughout the house then you need to invest in an adequate internal network.

  6. Avatar MR AHMAD says:

    Cant wait to leave talk talk contract
    Been with them for one year need to be with a reliable provider that not cheats or lie talk talk will lose their customers.

  7. Avatar Stephen says:

    Been with TalkTalk for a few years and overall the broadband speed has been pretty good. However the customer service is atrocious to put it mildly. If you have any problems then it’s like trying to push a10 ton truck uphill.

  8. Avatar sam says:

    TT tech is pathetic junk

  9. Avatar Gary says:

    Should have advertised it as Ultramegafast Fibre WiFi. No problem with that.

  10. Avatar PILAR GASPAR says:

    tALK TALK IS RUBISH .only PUT ADVERTIZING IN INTERNET, WHEN I SAW THE NES. IT IS VEEREY SLOW. Always stop script, writing nonses in middle of the news. I am fed up of this talk talk sofwere.

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