BT 'misleading' adverts banned


BT TowerClive Gee/PA Archive/Press Association Images

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned an advertising campaign from BT after it claimed that its Infinity service was 'unbeatable'. Virgin Media and three others had questioned the veracity of the claims.

So what was BT saying, and where did it fall short?

The arguments

The adverts made a number of claims which rankled with Virgin Media and the other complainants. As well as saying that the speeds were 'unbeatable', it also claimed that the service was 'four times faster' without giving any context and 'three times faster' while not giving a clear explanation.

The 'unbeatable claim' appeared in all the adverts. BT argued that it wasn't claiming to be the fastest service. It highlighted that although other providers have a 10mbps service, none had one that was faster. It was therefore joint-best and as such was unbeatable.

Virgin pointed out that the adverts went on to list a number of things you could do online - including 'sharing' photos and videos. Virgin highlighted that you cannot download video or photos as fast with a BT service as you can with Virgin. BT argued that people who read the advert would read the word 'share' as meaning they could upload videos and photos at unbeatable speeds. The ASA sided with Virgin.

Virgin Media pointed out that superfast speeds were only available with certain packages and not to all Infinity customers, and the ASA agreed that making claims without explaining there were two available speeds was misleading.

BT defended its claims of being 'three times faster' because it is for some services. It also said the four times faster claim was based on Ofcom averages, and that clicking on the advert would take users to a page which explained this. The ASA said it wasn't clear from the adverts which services were faster, or what it was claiming to be four times faster than, so again said it was misleading.

BT cannot run the adverts as they are again

Top advertising icons that are no more

Top advertising icons that are no more

No surprise

This is a shocking example, but it won't come as any surprise to consumers to hear that broadband adverts aren't quite what they may seem. In the past, advertisers have been able to boast about their fastest speeds without any mention of the reality for most users. It meant adverts all over the country for speeds of up to 20MB and 24MB when the average user gets just 7.5 MB. It's hardly surprising, therefore, that research found that 89% of people felt broadband advertising was misleading.

Since April 1, companies have only allowed to advertise speeds that are achievable by at least 10% of customers. However, Dominic Baliszewski, broadband expert says: "Setting the advertised maximum speed at a figure that only a privileged few customers can receive will still rub salt in the wound for the remaining 90% of customers who have little chance of achieving the provider's best speeds."

"Customers need to be empowered to make an informed choice. This means they need access to accurate information regarding broadband speeds from the first advert they see, to the point they make a purchase. We would like to see 'typical speeds' made the gold standard for broadband advertising in the same way that banks use typical APR percentages, giving consumers a much clearer picture of the kind of service they are likely to receive."

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