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BT Consistently Fast Broadband Adverts Banned by UK Advertising Authority

Posted: 25th Aug, 2010 By: MarkJ
asa uk bt broadband advertbt retail uk broadbandThe UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a swathe of complaints from members of the public, TalkTalk and Sky Broadband against a TV advert, three radio ads and a national press ad for BT Retail's Total Broadband service. Crucially the claim "CONSISTENTLY FASTER BROADBAND even at peak times" faced the biggest backlash, not least because of how BT adopts a Traffic Management policy.

Several of the adverts also used visual comparisons, such as surfing a basic website, which in reality would not necessarily benefit from a faster connection; at least not beyond a certain point since many web-servers limit their speeds to keep hosting bandwidth under control. Overall 6 out 7 seven primary complaints against BT's adverts were upheld and deemed to be misleading.
The 17 ASA Received Complaints

UPHELD 1. Eleven viewers and one listener challenged whether the claim "BT is rolling out up to 20 meg speeds to give you a consistently faster broadband even at peak times" in ads (a), (b), (c) and (d), which compared the new service with BTs existing 8 Mbit/s service, was misleading and could be substantiated.

UPHELD 2. Four viewers objected that the visual comparison of speed in ad (a) was misleading, because they believed surfing a typical website would not be any faster with a 20 Mbit/s service than it would with an 8 Mbit/s service.

UPHELD 3. Three viewers objected that ad (a) was misleading, because the speed of the visual demonstration on the woman's laptop was, they believed, faster than that which could be achieved ordinarily at any connection speed.

UPHELD 4. British Sky Broadcasting (Sky) challenged whether the claim "BT is rolling out up to 20 meg speeds to give you a consistently faster broadband even at peak times" was misleading in the context of the industry comparison claim in ad (e) because BT operated a traffic management policy.

Sky and TalkTalk challenged whether ad (e) was misleading because:


UPHELD 5. it did not make clear on-going restrictions on the availability of the 20 Mbit/s service; and

UPHELD 6. they understood the figures used as the basis of the claim "consistently faster broadband speeds compared with the ADSL* industry average" were not independently obtained and were not suitable for an industry wide comparison because they could have been affected by the particular telephone lines selected.

NOT UPHELD 7. Virgin and TalkTalk challenged whether the claim "consistently faster broadband speeds compared with the ADSL* industry average" in ad (e) was misleading, because they believed it was contradicted by a recent independent survey conducted by Ofcom, the results of which were more robust as they were complied over a much longer period of time.

View the Full ASA Ruling
The ASA has since informed BT that the related adverts must not appear again in their current form. BT was also told to ensure that they held robust documentary evidence to prove all claims "capable of objective substantiation". On Point 5, they also told them to ensure any significant restrictions were made clear in future.

BT Statement

"We are disappointed by the ASA's adjudication. At the time the ads appeared, BT had just started rolling out a new up-to-20Mb broadband service across the country and we wanted to highlight the higher speeds available in newly enabled exchange areas offering customers consistently faster web browsing in comparison to BT's up-to-8Mb service. There was certainly no intention to mislead."

Not that BT, or any other ISPs for that matter, will listen because the ASA has no real power to punish beyond simply having the adverts removed. Earlier this month BT was also slapped by the ASA for claiming that its new fibre optic based FTTC 40Mbps broadband products allowed customers to "upload and share high quality photos and videos instantly; Download your favourite music instantly; Enjoy multiple websites and online content instantly; Stream HD movies and TV shows instantly," (here) which is very misleading.
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