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BT Advert Banned for Misleading UK Broadband Speed Guarantee

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2021 (7:52 am) - Score 11,064
bt smart hub 2 router front

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a website advert for BT’s broadband ISP packages – seen during December 2020 – after they “misleadingly” presented their “Stay Fast Guarantee” on packages as a guaranteed minimum speed for the package, when that was not actually the case.

The issue here reflects the packages that BT shows to all visitors on their public broadband deals page. The complaint itself focused on their “Fibre 2” (FTTC / VDSL2) package, which at the time was being promoted alongside a download speed range of “65Mb – 73Mb“, while the text underneath stated “Your Stay Fast Guarantee 60Mb.”

Crucially, the Stay Fast Guarantee does not actually guarantee the speed it states as a minimum, but rather offers the promise of £20 compensation if the speed drops below that level. BT’s page included a link directly below the “guarantee” to explain all this and clarified it was an estimate of speed, which would vary by line (i.e. as required by Ofcom, customers get a more accurate personal estimate of speed when inputting their address).

Nevertheless, the complainant, who was an existing BT customer and understood that their own internet speed was significantly slower than 60Mbps, challenged whether the claim “Your Stay Fast Guarantee 60Mb” was misleading. The ASA ultimately upheld the complaint, although it’s all quite finely balanced on a few key points of detail, which some may consider to be debatable.

ASA Ruling (A21-1109653 British Telecommunications plc)

We noted that the speed was referred to as a ‘guarantee’, and we considered that guarantees were typically associated with offering certainty. Consumers were therefore likely to understand that the speed alongside the “Your Stay Fast Guarantee” claim was specific to them and offering an assurance of that speed, rather than an estimate. In that context, we considered the claim “Your Stay Fast Guarantee” would be interpreted as the minimum broadband speed that BT would commit to provide to the consumer’s address during their contract.

We acknowledged that as signatories to Ofcom’s Voluntary Codes of Practice on Broadband Speed, BT were required to provide a ‘minimum guaranteed speed’, ensuring that customers were aware of their right to exit their contract if speeds fell below that minimum level. We understood the claim “Your Stay Fast Guarantee” was a reference to that. We acknowledged that information explaining that guarantee was available when consumers clicked on a link, labelled “What these speed estimates mean for you”. However, that information was not shown in the main body of the ad and we considered it was possible for consumers to choose a broadband deal without necessarily seeing that information. Furthermore, although the labelling of the link referred to a speed “estimate” in the main body of the ad, we noted that the text stated “It’s important to know that the speed ranges we show are an estimate”, and we considered consumers would understand that as a reference specifically to where speed ranges, rather than specific speeds, were given.

We understood that the broadband speed alongside the “Your Stay Fast Guarantee” referred to a broadband speed a customer could expect, based on an estimate using information from homes similar to theirs. We understood that after a customer had made an enquiry about a broadband deal, but before they signed up to the service, BT would undertake further property-specific checks, following which it was possible for the initial “Your Stay Fast Guarantee” to be revised. We understood it was the latter speed which would be used as the minimum speed BT were required to offer as part of Ofcom’s Voluntary Codes of Practice. The speed given in the ad was therefore not an actual minimum guaranteed speed, but an estimate of that speed, which was subject to revision, and not one on which consumers could necessarily rely to leave their contract without penalty.

Because the stated speed was likely to be seen as a guaranteed minimum speed specific to the entered address, and because that was not the case, we concluded that the ad was misleading.

As usual the ASA banned the website advert in its current form and told BT to ensure that their ads “did not present the “Your Stay Fast Guarantee” speed as a guarantee, if it was in fact an estimate of one.” We note that these days you can’t even see BT’s broadband deals without first entering your address, which means that everybody should get a more accurate personal estimate by default.

On top of that, the ISP has also significantly reduced the promoted guaranteed speeds on some of their packages (e.g. even on their 74Mbps Full Fibre 2 package the Stay Fast Guarantee comes out at around 34Mbps), which may be enough to keep them within the ASA’s good books. But it might also create some consumer confusion with their slower tiers (e.g. Full Fibre 1 that advertises a 50Mbps speed).

We think it might have been easier just to stop calling it a “guarantee” in the first place.

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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.
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16 Responses
  1. Paul says:

    So slow a year later

  2. Sam P says:

    It’s all getting so silly.

  3. zzing says:

    It has always been a bit confusing. It pretended to be an SLA and wasn’t.

    But there should be clarity on SLAs with lines as well as we have Openreach Service Maintenance Levels 1-4 (40, 20hr same day and 6hr) fault clear vs Care Levels 1-4 which are wholesale related, and also unclear whether they relate to data or voice and no clarity on SoGEA lines.

    1. anonymous says:

      An SLA is exactly what it is. The ruling against it was over it being advertised as a guarantee rather than a service level.

      SLA = Service Level Agreement = an agreement that if a certain level of service isn’t met there will be consequences.

      Guarantee is in the dictionary and they misused the word as shorthand for service level.

  4. Nicholas Booth says:

    What’s the point of banning an advert one year later?

    By that time 99.9 per cnet of the public has been misled

    It’s lkike turning up to a fire after the house has burnt down

    1. GNewton says:

      It’s like this other misleading Openreach ad shown for millions of premises in its Availability Checker for the UK:

      “Great news. Superfast Fibre is available at your address.”

      Then, when you look at the details, it ain’t fibre, but a copper VDSL.

      The ASA is simply not doing its job!

  5. John Elvin says:

    I can only get FTTC and they are showing “Your Stay Fast Guarantee 71Mb” for my address which seems optimistic!

  6. Waldo says:

    bt is garbage i’m supposed to get 120mbps now i’m only get 80mbps. Pathetic clown company multi billionaire company can’t even provide normal high speed internet to everyone like any normal european country.

    1. Barry Craig says:

      I’m now on 900fttp and 3mnths on still not getting over 200.

  7. Lyncol says:

    Once it was fibre broadband now it’s full fibre broadband.Whats next…. overflowing fibre broadband?

  8. James C. says:

    The entire industry is awash with misleading terminology that’s prevailed for year’s, how “fiber” was ever allowed to be a term for FTTC still baffles me, and I expect it’s probably harming take-up of FTTP or “full fiber” or whatever marketing term they decide to spin. To the lay person they have had “fiber” broadband for years.

    Super/Ultra fast is another disaster in progress and while the death of the copper network should help I can’t help feel we’ll fall back to misleading advertising as a way to differentiate and as network traffic increases exponentially we’ll see gaps again between what was sold and what is actually provided.

    1. The Facts says:

      Virgin Media were first with their copper coax.

    2. John1978 says:

      Most people really don’t care that’s why. All that’s important is a reliable broadband for the family, video calls and Netflix
      . How they do it really is of zero interest to me.

  9. Aldas says:

    I upgrate to 900mbps and maximum what i can reach is480 and they saiing its fine nut then i HAVE TRY FOR ONE MONTH 500MBPS I CAN REACH 520MBPS LOOKS I MAKE MISTAKE TO UPGRADE.

    1. TG says:

      Good Ingland

  10. AnotherTim says:

    I occasionally check what BT could offer – there was a period about a year ago where my stay fast guarantee was actually 0Mbps! (It is currently showing 3Mbps – with a special price of £32.99pm for 24 months).

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