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UK ASA Bans Misleading Speed Claims Advert for ISP Sky Broadband

Posted: 16th Sep, 2009 By: MarkJ
asa logoThe UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint made by BT against a press (newspaper) advert for BSkyB's Sky Broadband ISP service. The advert misleadingly claimed that BT and Virgin Media would slow customers’ connection speeds down during peak times and that Sky's Unlimited package would not.

BSkyB disputed the ad was misleading and said that all of BT's customers were potentially affected by its 'fair use policy'. They said that unlike their competitors BT and Virgin, who reduced broadband speeds at peak times for users who exceeded their 'fair use' or 'traffic management' policies, the Sky Broadband Max product (now called Sky Broadband Unlimited) offered a truly unlimited service and did not slow down broadband speeds at any time.

BT believed Sky's advert implied that all of its customers would get slower speeds imposed on them during peak periods, which they felt to be incorrect because the related element of their 'fair use policy' only applied to 'very heavy users'.

ASA Conclusion:

We considered that consumers would infer from the claim, "If you're in a Sky network area, we don't slow your broadband speed down at peak times - unlike Virgin Media and BT" that BT and Virgin slowed down broadband speeds in peak times for all their customers, including those who used web-browsing services with low bandwidths. We concluded that the claim was likely to mislead.

On this point the ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation) 7.1, 7.2 (Truthfulness) and 18.1 (Comparisons with identified competitors and/or their products).

It’s worth mentioning that natural increases upon bandwidth consumption during busy periods will slow any broadband ISP down, no matter what their policy claims. For example, it is quite common for the rise in afternoon usage to result in slower speeds for almost all customers because broadband is a shared "best efforts" service. No consumer ISP could truthfully claim that their speeds are never affected by this.
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