O2 Coverage Advert Banned By ASA

Telefonica’s UK mobile operation O2 has been sanctioned by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The ASA action comes after BT’s EE complained about an O2 advert in April 2020 for the Samsung S20 5G handset. Some of the text in the advert stated “on the network voted Britain’s Best for Coverage”.

EE felt that comparative claims about network coverage should be based on objective technical evidence rather than consumer surveys, and thus it challenged whether the claim was misleading.

ASA ruling

Telefonica UK disagreed with EE’s view that network coverage could only be measured using objective, technical measures, and it said that its claim referenced a consumer survey of 12,000 UK adults carried out by uSwitch.com.

O2 acknowledged that technical tests could be carried out to assess the strength of coverage to a certain (but not definitive) extent, and said results could differ depending on weather, traffic, difference in population in that area at that time, and a whole range of other variable factors.

However O2 said that network coverage was experienced by individual customers on a daily basis and such experiences varied depending on areas, times and handsets.

But the ASA did not accept O2’s arguments.

“The ASA considered that consumers would interpret the claim ‘On the network voted Britain’s Best for Coverage’ with the uSwitch logo clearly shown at the bottom right of the ad to mean that O2 had won the best network for coverage category at the uSwitch awards,” said the advertising watchdog.

“Because it claimed that O2 had been found to be the ‘best’ we considered that it would be seen as a comparative claim with the rest of the market and that consumers would expect it to be supported by objective data,” the ASA ruled.

“Because consumers would expect, and the Code required, the claim ‘on the network voted Britain’s Best for Coverage’ to be based on an objective comparison of O2’s network coverage with their competitors when that was not the case, we concluded that it was misleading and breached the Code,” it stated.

“The ad must not appear again in the form complained of,” it added. “We told Telefonica UK Ltd t/a O2 to ensure that that they held adequate and objective evidence to support comparative claims.”

Other rulings

The ASA frequently has to rule on claims made by mobile operators or Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

In 2014 for example, the ASA ordered EE not to reprint an advert that claimed its fixed line broadband services was Britain’s “most reliable” since such boasts could not be substantiated.

BT has also been previously got into trouble over its Infinity ads, which claimed to provide ‘instant’ Internet services.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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