Vodafone Gigafast Ad Banned After Virgin Complaint

Vodafone has been banned from using the term ‘Gigafast Broadband’ to describe its fibre Internet service, after rival Virgin Media filed a complaint saying it was ‘misleading’.

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that Vodafone must not use the term again, after the ASA took issue with the fact that Vodafone only offered average speeds from 100Mbps to 900Mbps, and not 1Gbps.

In February last year Vodafone pledged to give customers some money back if they don’t get the broadband speeds they were promised.

Gigafast network

According to the ASA, a Vodafone website on 15 November 2018 featured a page that detailed their ‘Vodafone Gigafast’ broadband service.

It claimed that users could “blast off at an average of 900Mbps,” and further down the advert said that “great broadband doesn’t have to cost the earth – enjoy Vodafone Gigafast Broadband speeds for as little as £23 a month”.

“Virgin Media Ltd challenged whether the claim “Gigafast Broadband” misleadingly implied that the entire service was capable of delivering speeds of 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps),” said the ASA.

Vodafone’s ‘Gigafast Broadband’ products are the trademarked term that Vodafone uses to promote a range of packages on Cityfibre’s FTTP network.

Vodafone and CityFibre are in the process of building a fibre to the premise (FTTP) broadband network that will serve as many as five million properties. In January 2018, Milton Keynes became the first UK city to receive this superfast service.

This network is currently being deployed to cover 5 million premises across 37 UK cities and towns by the end of 2024.

Complaint upheld

Vodafone responded to the ASA investigation by saying that they used a ‘fibre to the home’ infrastructure which was capable of delivering speeds to the router at 1Gbps.

Vodafone also said the advert contained a prominent statement that disclaimed the claim made in the service name – namely that the speeds available under the Gigafast line ranged from 100Mbps to 900Mbps, on average.

The operator also referred to two competitors, one of whom had used the term ‘Gigafast’ to refer to their 1Gbps package and another of whom had claimed speed of 1Gbps.

But this argument did not dissuade the ASA and it upheld the complaint.

“The ASA considered that many consumers would likely understand the prefix ‘Giga’ to be a hyperbolic description of speed, and would therefore generally understand ‘Gigafast’ internet was very fast broadband,” the ASA stated. “However, we considered that a significant proportion of consumers would have sufficient knowledge of broadband terminology to understand Gigafast Broadband as a reference to a service capable of providing speeds of 1 Gbps (1000Mbps).”

The ASA also objected that the £23 per month price mentioned in the advert only gave the impression that a service that could achieve speeds of 1Gbps, when in fact only the average 100Mbps package could be purchased for £23.

Vodafone’s full fat 900Mbps package costs £48 a month.

“The web page must not continue to appear in the form complained of,” the ASA ruled. “We told Vodafone Ltd not to imply that a package capable of achieving 1Gbps was available for £23 a month.”

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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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