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BT Get Sky Broadband UK Ads Banned for “Top Performing” Claim

Wednesday, Aug 10th, 2022 (7:23 am) - Score 4,008
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A complaint raised by rival UK ISP BT (EE) has resulted in the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banning two adverts (a website and email promotion) for Sky Broadband’s service, both of which were found to have misleadingly claimed that the company was the “Top Performing Major Provider“.

Both of Sky’s adverts, which were seen in February 2022, appeared to base the aforementioned claim on the results from Ofcom’s Q2 2021 complaints data. But it only takes a quick look at that data to see how EE actually attracted the least complaints in that quarter for fixed line phone and broadband services (here), yet Sky didn’t consider EE to be a “major” provider (they only compared against BT, TalkTalk and Virgin Media).

Naturally, BT challenged Sky’s claim and also complained about how the ad implied that Sky had been given an award by Ofcom, when that was not the case. The ASA said that there was no accepted definition of a “major provider” in the broadband market, but they also felt as if EE, despite its lower market share, could be reasonably be perceived as one by consumers. Overall, the ASA ended up siding with BT on both accounts.

ASA Ruling REF: A22-1148931 Sky UK Ltd

1. Because the claim was not prominently qualified in both ads, which would have been necessary for consumers to understand the meaning of the claim “major provider”, and because in the absence of clear qualification consumers would consider EE a major provider, we concluded that the ads were misleading.

2. The ASA noted that the disputed images in ads (a) and (b) contained text that stated, “TOP PERFORMING MAJOR BROADBAND PROVIDER” which was consistent with an award title. Similarly, the displayed five stars was also familiar imagery found in awards. While the qualifying text did not explicitly state Sky had won an award, the reiteration of the wording, “top performing major broadband provider”, and the attribution of this to Ofcom complaints data, reinforced the impression that an award had been given and directly linked that accolade to Ofcom’s complaints data reports.

The ASA further noted that the image had been placed next to another graphic of an actual award for the “Best Triple Play Provider” from the 2020 Uswitch awards in ad (a). That had text underneath it which stated, “Our award-winning package is unbelievable for unlimited streaming”. The depiction of the adjacent award and the text mirrored that of the disputed image and the overall presentation reinforced the impression that Sky had won an award for being a top performing broadband provider within Ofcom’s report.

Because ads (a) and (b) implied that Sky had received an award from Ofcom when that was not the case, we concluded that both ads were misleading and breached the Code.

As usual, the ASA banned the adverts in their current form and told Sky to ensure that future promotions “prominently qualified significant limitations“, and did “not mislead consumers by falsely claiming or implying they had won an award.”

UPDATE 9:52am

We’ve had a comment from EE.

An EE spokesperson said:

“Comparative claims should always be based on accurately represented data, not excluding the facts. Our customers already know we are the top performing broadband provider because they experience the best customer service across the industry, with 100% calls answered in the UK and Ireland.”

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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
10 Responses
  1. Avatar photo AQX says:

    Adverts shown in February, this is August.
    They already got their customers who have no way of leaving that contract. Yet again another useless ruling by the ASA, the only way they’re properly going to stop this is imposing fines OR Ofcom gets involved and starts allowing people to leave their contracts if they joined aforementioned company during the time their advert(s) were live. That way it financially makes no sense to try and swing adverts in a way that benefits them or any other provider.

    1. Avatar photo Bri says:

      AQX common sense answer and I totally agree.If someone signs up because of false advertising you should be able to leave with no penalty. Also the damage is done by the time the ASA rule one way or another as you pointed ou.

    2. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      You could probably make that argument to an ADR complaints handler, possibly with some success.

  2. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

    Broadband services coming over the same network are more or less the same these days, If I went over to sky broadband I would get the same speed as I do with plusnet, most larger providers can cope with congestion as well or badly as any other. When we had traffic shaping years ago, then that was where providers were different.
    The main difference between providers apart from price is how they deal with problems and some have add ons.

    The service I get from plusnet is to be honest better than what I have seen BT offers and yet it costs less and is from the same company. Figure that out

    1. Avatar photo Jazzy says:

      more of less what I said below in my comment

      I’ve been with sky for donkeys and stayed with them as they’ve always beat the competition when the contract was due for renewal

    2. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      @Jazzy

      The reason why I have stayed with Plusnet for so long is because they offer a good service and give me a good deal at the end of the contract, if they do the same after this contract is up I will stay with them. I am not going to FTTP even if it is available via Openreach, I have now decided to stay on FTTC.

    3. Avatar photo RyanD says:

      You also have differences like their “Security” firewalls, IPv6 compatibility and the biggest difference being the quality of the router they provide.

      We’re lucky that some ISPs actually provide decent routers but then there’s are a few that cheap out or simply don’t do enough internal testing before releasing a new router.

      Having BT, TalkTalk, Sky and Virgin battling it out with the routers is a good thing for consumers!

  3. Avatar photo Jazzy says:

    If they’re coming along the Openreach network, then they’re like for like IMHO, whether they’re DSL, FTTC or FTTP

    I never had any issues with my Sky ASDL which was always 19MB out of the 20MB fastest, then in 2012 I got FTTP and had that for 10 years which was always around 72MB when I tested it and my new FTTP at 500MB is always between 470 and 515 when I test that, I can’t see it being different with other providers using the same cabling and infrastructure

    Maybe someone can explain otherwise

    1. Avatar photo Jazzy says:

      In 2012 I got FTTC sorry – typo

    2. Avatar photo Laurence 'GreenReaper' Parry says:

      For the most part, you’re right. However, depending on the provider, your traffic may be going over more or less congested lines within the UK the peering between other networks can also have an impact on your bandwidth to overseas systems, especially at peak times. Whether this will impact you in a material way when most services’ bandwidth requirements are relatively low is another matter. It’s something that impacts people serving content, especially to places like the USA where ISPs play hardball, demanding other parties pay their share of upgrade costs to access customers, as you can have a provider that peers with networks that do pay the cost. Speed tests often go to a server within your provider’s own network, and almost always within the same country, which does not adequately test this.

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