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EE UK Adverts Banned for “UNBEATABLE” No.1 Network Claims

Wednesday, April 8th, 2020 (7:53 am) - Score 17,098

A complaint by rival mobile operator Three UK has prompted the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to ban a string of adverts for EE’s 4G and 5G network, which were all found to have made “misleading” claims of being the United Kingdom’s “No.1 network“, as well as being “UNRIVALLED” and “UNBEATABLE.

The adverts included a promotion in the national press (a), an outdoor poster (b), a website (c), a regional press ad (d), an Instagram post (e) and a paid-for Instagram post (f) for mobile network provider EE, seen in May, June, September 2019 and February 2020. However, Three UK challenged that these were all misleading with respect to the aforementioned claims, not least because a relevant measure was not used and the small print was either absent or insufficiently prominent.

In response, EE argued that many of their claims were based on the results of independent testing body Rootmetrics (example), which has indeed tended to place them above all of their primary Mobile Network Operator (MNO) rivals in the United Kingdom for the past 6 years “without challenge from any competitor” (Rootmetrics tests mobile broadband speed, call quality, network reliability etc.).

Despite this the ASA found that EE hadn’t always made sufficiently clear that their claims largely related to the studies from Rootmetrics. On top of that it noted how such studies didn’t take full account of “subjective consumer views of the service the mobile providers provided” (i.e. scientific network testing is only part of how you gauge the quality of a provider).

ASA Ruling (REF: G20-1057497 EE Ltd)

We considered that consumers would be unfamiliar with Rootmetrics and would therefore be unaware of how the Rootscore report tested operators. We noted the Rootmetrics logo in ads (a), (b), (d), (e) and (f), and further information in the footer of ads (a), (b) and (d) explaining that the claim was based on the rankings of the Rootscore report.

However, we did not consider the presence of the logo sufficient, nor was the further information sufficiently prominent to link Rootmetrics to the claims and allow consumers an understanding of the basis of those claims. In addition, neither the logo nor the further information was present at all in ad (c).

While we noted EE’s reference to their Mobile Network of the Year award by Trusted Reviews, we understood that among the nominees were the three other mobile network operators and three virtual network operators that used those networks to deliver their own service. These aligned with the interpretation of the term “network” as meaning those businesses, rather than the meaning intended by EE, further underlining the ambiguity of the claim as it appeared in the ads.

While we recognised the Rootscore report rated EE as the best mobile network operator, using various objective measures of their infrastructural network performance, because consumers could understand the claims “UNBEATABLE”, “UNRIVALLED” and “No.1 Network” more broadly to relate to the network operator and to take account of both objective measures of network performance and subjective consumer views of the service the mobile providers provided, we considered that EE should have made clearer that the claims “No.1 Network”, “UNBEATABLE” and “UNRIVALLED” related specifically to the report.

As usual the ASA banned the adverts in their current form and told EE to ensure that their future advertising made the basis of their network performance claims sufficiently clear.

Leave a Comment
40 Responses
  1. Avatar New_Londoner

    It will be ironic if the Three complaint results in more publicity for the EE position at the top of the Rootmetric tests and Three’s at the bottom.

  2. Avatar joe

    Another triumph of ASA stupidity. One week adds are banned for not having good sci evidence another for relying and providing the sci evidence.

    • In this case it appears as if they didn’t provide enough information on the evidence provided (context is crucial) and failed to consider the importance of subjective consumer views when making bold general claims of superiority. Quite a few mobile operators and ISPs have fallen foul of this over the years.

    • Avatar joe

      Yeah I read the report mark but

      “We considered that consumers would be unfamiliar with Rootmetrics and would therefore be unaware of how the Rootscore report tested operators. ”

      Thats an essentially impossible hurdle. Consumer are consumers they won’t understand the metrics used and its risible to pretend they would.

      The ASA can’t demand high proof one ruling then say such proof is too complex for consumers the next. The whole thing looks arbitrary and inconsistent.

  3. Avatar J

    Three should spend as much time upgrading their network as they do complaining about everyone else

    • Avatar Stewart Souter

      Three were going to make a deal with, or merge with O2 but EE and others complained saying it made them to large. Just before BT bought EE.

    • Avatar Pezza

      Yeah funny how that works? BT buys EE and maintains completely monopoly of the UK’s communication infrastructure… after complaining about Three and O2..

    • Avatar Leex

      Yep need more CA (4g+) been setup, in my area vodafone and ee are laughing at 3 (more vodafone then ee)

      as ee still haven’t upgraded most of the old ex t-mobile now ee/3 50/50 share sites to carrier aggregation (I guess ee don’t want to pay the 50% share to pay NBNL to upgrade the cells as that means 3 will get to pay there 50% as well to get CA on the site (it really needs it, but as ee has lots of frequency space compared to free he can get away without having carrier aggregation)

    • Avatar Leex

      3 not free and ee not he (at the end)

    • Avatar Sun

      Three jacked up prices before the merger, glad they got rejected, now they seem to have come back down.

  4. Avatar David Palmer

    Except as an EE consumer, I can guarantee all the claims to be true.
    The bottom line is EE is the best UK network, and yes, they are unrivalled, unbeatable, untouchable etc. I was with them for 2 year and not ONCE did I get any disruption in service or speed…no other network speed compares, not even Vodafone’s “unlimited max”.
    For a network as useless and non existent as Three to be called a rival to EE, is an insult in itself, and maybe they should spend their money actually improving their services instead of filing stupid law suits. This won’t change the fact that Three is still the worst most useless network provider in the UK.

    • Avatar Pezza

      Glad your happy with EE, shame they put your price up mid contract more then anyone else and won’t allow you to cancel due to this…

      Yeah the best for sure.. I’m on Smarty owner by Three and I’d rather be with them and their incredible value and customer service, along with a more advanced network then EE.

    • Avatar Mark

      Different areas have different circumstances where I am EE constantly drops from 1 bar to no signal, three is pretty much the same.

      O2 is usually not bad but Vodafone is the best for reliability.

    • Avatar Stanley Murungu-Danya

      I am an engineer for Three mobile and indeed we are upgrading Three network as we speak giving 2x capacity as compared to current EE capacity. So stay tuned!

    • Avatar dave

      I’ll believe it when I see it!

    • Avatar Leex

      If you mean adding capacity as in getting CA enabled on as many sites as possible that be really nice as without ca 3 is very lackluster (Vodafone is very aggressive at wanting to be on CA LTE-A)

    • Avatar Kevin

      I’ve been with three for 9 years, they’re the cheapest still for unlimited calls, texts, data and tethering. Brilliant speeds and customer service. For under £25 a month for myself, new customers could get it for even less than £20 as one of my relatives has that deal. The problem with all networks is, the more customers using a particular network at a time always effects performance, for example think of how difficult it is on new years Eve as it hits midnight every year, to make a call to family, friends and loved ones, that’s network performance at it’s worst. As there’s nothing that can be done until 5g is installed on every corner or 0.8 miles between each 5g broadcast cast beacon (those poles with a giant pill shape at the top of them, some are grey and some are black in UK). That’s the only way 5g will work the way networks say and to be honest, three are the only network that aren’t selling people 5g in there adverts, as it doesn’t exist in a majority area in this country. And to be honest, no one will get true 5g until Elon Musk finishes his Starlink project. And with the population increasing there’s going to be even more customers who have mobile phones which again will slow things down, so then we’ll be developing 6g or Starlinks next model. It’s like a vicious circle and everyone is blinded by there shiny new handsets. Ultimately don’t mess around, go with the best value for money deals and find only what you require at the lowest price. If you all do a little digging of your own you’ll figure this out for yourselves, good luck. Stay at home, keep safe.

  5. Avatar Eileen Weaver

    My signal is so low,i am very disappointed ,my contract due for renewal February will be looking for another suppler sorry

  6. Avatar Marine

    Hi no EE is not the best, they keep saying that they are but they are not. My broadband provides me with 0.8 Mb and there is Fibre to property where I live and even if EE belongs to BT, apparently I can’t benefit from it but I am stuck with them! EE the best far from it!

  7. Avatar MC

    EE the most expensive and not as they are saying
    Charges over charges speed no way the best
    Cs worst then virginmedia
    9 years still going back to Three after testing other companies

  8. Avatar Jack

    Hi… EE is not that good, I used to be with them. No good reception in Bournemouth Boscombe one bar, Leicester same,some parts of Dorset even no signal and EE are saying they are no 1 from the Bottom, overpriced

  9. Avatar Stephen Wakeman

    One has to wonder, how a company would not fall afoul of this judgement if claims like this must be verifiable with BOTH objective and subjective evidence. How do you broadly quantify subjective data unless it’s normalised through a source, such as a review aggregation service or something like Trustpilot? Even if you did would you not be open to the same criticism of it being unreasonable to expect general consumers to understand that the data originates from one particular source?

    The claims are admittedly hyperbolic but they’re going to be aren’t they? Anecdotally I know Three offer some amazingly priced plans but reading reviews loads of them say customers get barely usable speeds due to network congestion and ridiculously high contention. A cheap price for unlimited data is not good value if you can barely use the data in an enjoyable or at least viable manner.

    All the mobile operators need to get a grip and stop squabbling so much. EE could stop boasting and try to figure out how to offer better value. Three should invest more time in decongesting their network and securing it better. It’s bad enough that it’s a Chinese company with a poor security record. Don’t care how friendly their staff are if they give out your data.

  10. Avatar John Connor

    I like ee but my cat could’ve made a better advert looking at that screenshot of all those words

  11. Avatar Daniel Widdison

    3 offer the best deals. Have done since 2003.

  12. Avatar Umar

    Iam Three Client and I can confirm that its service is worst
    Don’t go near it i took 24 months contract but
    Now regretting it

  13. Avatar Antonin Urban

    I am an EE customer and it’s as bad as it gets. Up until a week ago, I lived in central Bedford and had close to nothing on reception. Now I moved to Kempston. Still a central area, still no reception. Can’t wait to get rid of EE. More so, broadband from TalkTalk is a lot better than from EE. Tested thatbas well, unfortunately…

  14. Avatar Martin Lloyd

    Depends on what you want and where you want it. I need a connection wherever i am so i have an imported dual sim samsung phone and an iphone which allows me to have access to vodafone, ee and three networks. o2 network share with vodafone otherwise i would use 2 dual sim phones and have all 4 networks covered.

    i have vodafone unlimited max which gives me around 30mbs download/18 mbs upload. EE via a 30 day plusnet contract gives me around 18mbs download/7mbs upload and Three payg gives me 7mbs download/1.5mbs upload.

  15. Avatar Andy

    EE are terrible had so many problems with them cant wait to cancel my contract and go elsewhere but 3 are just as bad orange was the best never had any problems

  16. Avatar Rob

    I like that unrepeatable has been repeated.

  17. Avatar Jim

    So 3 are complaining, I’m a 3 customer and while they are complaining 3 Mobile have sent texts out to customers telling them that 3 Mobile are increasing their monthly charges. Great move during a time like this, maybe this should be highlighted in the news

  18. Avatar Billy cardif

    I wish it was true, where I live every other network has reception wherever I am, but ee confines me to one room in the house!?! Number 1??????

  19. Avatar Buggerlugz

    Sour grapes from Three.

    If they spent more time actually investing in their network as they do complaining about competitors they would indeed have the best UK network. Sadly from my personal experience the idiom “How bad a companies management team runs the company is directly proportional to how good its PR department is.” rings true for Three.

    PR matters more to them than anything. It don’t matter what the true situation on the ground is, what matters to Three is that they can continue to sell a product as a great service when in reality its pretty shonky at best.

  20. Avatar Buggerlugz

    If EE had just published the actual results data on the bottom of the advert in small print like this…

    Overall Scores for H2 2019 (vs H1 2019 Result)
    1. EE – 95.6 (down from 96.1)
    2. Vodafone – 94.7 (down from 95.2)
    3. O2 – 89.7 (down from 90.5)
    4. Three UK – 89.3 (down from 92.1)

    It would have highlighted all the top 4 networks actually got worse, but Three UK dropped the most points. I’m sure that’d have given three more to complain about mind! 🙂

  21. Avatar F3rgy15

    I’m with ee for my fibre plus & mobile (max plan). Speed & coverage wise they’re spot on, was previously with three for my mobile. Although I have good deal for my broadband, I feel the value has gone down from the speeds i was getting at the start (70mbps to 55mbps now). EE cust service has always been good.

  22. Avatar Buggerlugz

    This is generally the problem with mobile data I find. You can have a great fast service one week then the following when 30 more customers in your neighbourhood sign up it becomes utterly useless. Unless the carriers start investing in spectrum and mast hardware and bandwidth to masts the quality of mobile broadband (for home use at least) is utterly unsustainable IMHO.

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