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ASA UK Ban TalkTalk’s Misleading Fibre Upgrade Email Adverts

Wednesday, Oct 9th, 2019 (7:28 am) - Score 1,184

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned two email adverts for TalkTalk’s ISP after they “misleadingly” told customers that “your usage is affecting your broadband service” and “you’ve hit your limit 3 times in 30 days” before recommending an upgrade to “fibre“, even though neither user was at such a “limit“.

The provider’s emails, which were sent in February and March 2019 (i.e. as usual the damage had already been done), appears to have been targeting TalkTalk’s remaining pool of ADSL (copper line) broadband subscribers and encouraging them to upgrade to their faster fibre based (FTTC, G.fast etc.) services.

At this point our readers will note that the ISP has long since been offering “unlimited” usage packages and as such any suggestion that a customer’s line was “at capacity” will have caused some confusion. The reason for this is because TalkTalk chose to define capacity as “the maximum amount of data the line could provide at any particular time.”

The definition is an unusual one since a customer who makes full use of their service “at peak times” may just be making fairly normal use of their connection, which is particularly true on slower lines where it’s easy to harness all your download and upload speed. Granted upgrading to a faster service would help but that’s a matter of personal preference and this probably isn’t the best way to promote such a thing.

ASA Ruling (REF: G19-1018317)

In the case of ad (b) this was further illustrated by a bar chart indicating the dates on which the complainant’s broadband was “At capacity”. However, we understood that neither complainants’ internet usage resulted in them reaching the maximum amount of data their lines could provide. Rather, the email was sent to customers who had reached two-thirds of their line’s bandwidth capacity twice in a 30-day period.

In the case of ad (b) we understood that the days on which the graph indicated the recipient was “At capacity” were days on which they had reached the two-thirds limit. We acknowledged that ad (b) included text at the bottom of the email which stated “30 day usage data: days reaching line limit calculated on your daily data usage and average customer data usage patterns, assumes more than 66% of line capacity used”. However, we did not consider this would override the overall impression of the ad that consumers had reached their data capacity.

We had not seen evidence that the complainants had reached their data capacity, therefore because the claims had not been substantiated, we concluded the ads were misleading.

As usual the ASA banned the adverts and told TalkTalk “not to imply that their customers were closer to reaching their broadband data capacity than was actually the case.

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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
6 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Doris says:

    I’m with TT on this, alot of users won’t know the difference between copper, copper/fiber and full fibre, as well as what they can support. To highlight that the line his hit it’s capacity and there is a faster alternative is to be commended.

    1. Avatar photo You have to be joking. says:

      Lying to customers to upsell product should not be commended.

    2. Avatar photo Doris says:

      You’re right, I hadn’t noticed they were basing the capacity limit as only 2/3 use

    3. Avatar photo Freda says:

      I got these emails and they made me extremely cross as they were totally and utterly misleading, telling me I might not have enough capacity to stream and browse by showing me a graph that had a few peaks where I was probably downloading an audiobook or windows update.
      Even if my line has twice the ‘speed’ I might still have been downloading at so called full capacity, just for half the time but this is NOT what the email said.
      I am a bit technical so know enough to realise this just simply an attempt to mislead but I have since been told by a neighbour she has upgraded on the back of these emails “as they said she needed to”.
      All pretty shameful and I am glad the ASA have stepped in.

  2. Avatar photo Andy says:

    If they want to move people from a legacy service, tell them the truth. Say that you are looking to retire the service and that they need to move to FTTC. Offer them a slower FTTC service that matched ADSL at the same price as they are currently paying and just get on with it. Don’t mess the customer about with flimflam.

  3. Avatar photo GNewton says:

    The worst bit here is the fact that the ASA once again did not object to the misleading usage of the word “fibre” when in fact TalkTalk was mainly talking about an upgrade to VDSL, not fibre! Until ASA gets its act together, nobody will take them serious.

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