ASA bans misleading BT broadband ads

Summary:BT can no longer run a series of radio, TV and print advertisements that claim the ISP offers 'consistently faster broadband even at peak times'

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned a BT ad campaign that claimed the ISP offered "consistently faster broadband even at peak times".

In an adjudication published on Wednesday — the latest in a string of recent judgements regarding broadband speed advertising — the watchdog told BT it could not run the TV, radio and print ads again. The ASA also reminded the company "to ensure they held robust documentary evidence to prove all claims capable of objective substantiation". The decision followed 17 complaints from consumers and rival ISPs Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin.

The first complaint to be upheld was over BT's claim that its up-to-20Mbps service was faster than its up-to-8Mbps service. "Because we had not seen sufficient evidence to support the claim that BTs new broadband service was consistently faster than its existing 8Mbps service even at peak times, we concluded that the ad was likely to mislead," the ASA said in its adjudication.

The ASA also agreed with complaints that BT's TV ad representation of the new service's speeds was unrealistic. Here, viewers had pointed out that a typical website would not load any faster with an up-to-20Mbps service than with an up-to-8Mbps service. According to the ASA, three viewers also said "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".

Sky and TalkTalk also complained that the print ads did not make clear that not all areas can get the up-to-20Mbps service, and the figures used by BT to justify its claims of being consistently faster than the industry average were not independently obtained and were therefore unsuitable. The ASA agreed.

BT said in a statement on Wednesday that it was "disappointed" by the ASA's decisions regarding the claims.

"We were concerned by a number of factors in the ASA's adjudication, for example, that not all customers could achieve consistently faster speeds — this was based on the fact that less than one per cent could not do this," the company said. "The ASA also commented that we should adjust our data to allow for differing line lengths [but] had we done this in the way suggested it would have increased our lead over other firms."

Topics: Networking


David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't be paying many bills. His early journalistic career was spent in general news, working behind the scenes for BBC radio and on-air as a newsreader for independent stations. David's main focus is on communications, of both... Full Bio

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