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ASA Rules Orange 'Up to 8Mbps' Misleading

Posted: 11th Oct, 2006 By: MarkJ
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has targeted a second ISP, Orange (Wanadoo), for advertising an 'up to 8Mbps' service without clearly stating that the actual speed delivered can significantly vary:

A national press ad, for Wanadoo, claimed "Superfast downloads now with up to 8 Meg broadband". ntl objected that the ad was misleading because, owing to the technical limitations of high speed broadband services, the maximum speed quoted would not be available to a significant number of people within the geographic areas in which the service was available. They provided figures that showed that, as the length of line between a local exchange and a customer's home increased, the broadband speed that could be achieved by the customer decreased. They said broadband speeds of 8 megabits per second (Mbps) or close to 8 Mbps could be achieved only by people who lived within 3 km of an exchange. Beyond that distance the achievable speed dropped rapidly because of unavoidable signal attenuation caused by line length and quality. The 35% of people who lived more than 3.8 km from an exchange, for example, would get at best a 5 Mbps connection. They believed the prefix "up to" was not an adequate indication that a large proportion of customers could not get a service close to the headline speed.

We considered that the higher speed service was likely to be attractive to consumers because of the advertised headline speed and the potential capabilities that a connection of that speed could give users. We understood, however, that the speeds 8 Mbps services could deliver were significantly affected by signal attenuation, which was caused by distance from the exchange and that as a result a significant proportion of consumers could not achieve speeds close to the headline speed.

We understood that users of an up to 8 Mbps service could take advantage of capabilities such as video streaming, file sharing and online gaming but that there would be a noticeable degradation of quality of the service when speeds fell below 6 Mbps. We therefore considered that "up to" was not an adequate qualifier in ads for higher speed services, given the impact that signal attenuation could have on speed and performance.

We concluded that the ad was misleading and welcomed Wanadoo's willingness to amend it. We asked them to indicate prominently in the body copy of future ads that top speeds varied significantly, in particular because of a user's distance from their local exchange.

The ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation) and 7.1 (Truthfulness).

The ruling should come as no surprise because the ASA made an identical one against Bulldog last month (here), which has somewhat opened the flood gates against how broadband speeds are advertised.
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