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UK Advertising Watchdog Slams Limited Availability of BT Superfast Broadband

Posted: 21st Sep, 2011 By: MarkJ
asa uk bt complaintbt retail ukThe UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld two complaints made by Virgin Media against "misleading" press (newspaper, magazines etc.) adverts for BT Retail's latest superfast 'up to' 40Mbps BT-Infinity service, both of which centred around the services limited availability.

Both of the upheld complaints focused on the service's "limited coverage", which did not appear to have been correctly reflected. In particular the claim that "most of our customers are already seeing at least three times faster speeds" appeared to suggest that the service was widely available, even though it wasn't.

ASA Rulings

1. Upheld (in relation to ad (b) only).

We also noted Virgin’s concerns in relation to ad (b), which we noted expounded the benefits of the Infinity service but, unlike ad (a) did not indicate that the service had limited availability.

Although we noted that small print stated “Limited coverage, check bt.com/infinity” we considered that the restricted availability of the service was a significant condition likely to affect readers’ understanding of the advertised product and should have been made clear in the body of the ad.

In the absence of that, we considered that the statements “most of our customers are already seeing at least three times faster speeds” and “Join now ...” would be interpreted by readers to mean that the service was already available to most, if not all, customers.

Because ad (b) implied that the Infinity service was widely available, and because we understood that that was not the case, we concluded that ad (b) was misleading.

2. Upheld

We noted that BT believed that the claim “most of our customers are already seeing at least three times faster speeds” would be interpreted by readers as a reference to customers who had already upgraded to Infinity receiving faster speeds. We noted their argument that the legal copy stated “Based on 85% of BT Broadband customers upgrading” but we noted this had not been linked to the claim.

We therefore considered that readers were more likely to infer from the claim that the majority of BT’s overall customer base had the Infinity service and were experiencing three times greater speeds as a result. Because we understood that was not the case, we concluded that ad (b) was misleading.

The ASA warned BT not to publish the advert again in its current form, which is somewhat after the fact and will thus make little difference. BT is expected to cover approximately 40% of the UK with its new FTTC technology by early 2012 and that will rise to 66% or more by 2015.
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