BT Ads Banned After Virgin Complaint

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BT has been banned from showing adverts that promise ‘unbeatable’ Infinity broadband speeds

A number of BT Infinity adverts last year were misleading, according to a new ruling from Britain’s advertising watchdog the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA).

The adverts, which were run in August and September last year on TV stations, in print media and on the Internet, ran afoul of the regulator over the use of the word “unbeatable”.

Virgin Media complains

“BT infinity lets you do more online at speeds four times faster than Sky’s typical broadband. Share photos and videos with friends at unbeatable speeds,” said a BT advert voiceover that appeared on television.

Virgin Media and three others complained and challenged whether the “unbeatable” claim made by BT was in fact misleading and could be substantiated.

BT defended the claims, saying that the speed at which consumers could share photos, video, music or other content depended on the upload speed of their connection. It said it got the figures from the 2011 Ofcom report, which showed that on average BT Infinity offered upload speeds of 8.8Mbps. BT said that upload speed was more than twice as good as the next average offered by Virgin Media at 4.1Mbps.

The ASA however felt that the word “sharing” could refer to a one way or two way exchange of information – i.e. upload and download speeds.

“Therefore, while we acknowledged BT’s statement that the claim was a top parity claim, we noted we had not seen evidence that BT’s download speeds were unbeatable, and concluded the claims in the ads had not been substantiated and were misleading,” said the ASA.

It ruled those adverts must not appear again in their current form. BT did not respond to a TechWeekEurope request for comment at the time of writing.

Misleading ads

This is not the first time that ISPs have run afoul of the incredibly touchy subject of broadband line speeds.

In early April guidelines designed to stop telecoms firms misleading consumers in ad campaigns were released in a bid to clamp down on unrealistic speed claims.

And in February, Ofcom called on ISPs to be more honest about their speeds as in the past, providers have defended their right to use ‘up to’ claims, justifying them by saying speeds varied from line to line.

In August 2010 BT was rapped over the knuckles for a TV advert that made misleading broadband speed claims. That advert featured the BT “Adam and Jane” couple, which filmed Adam being shown around a house by an estate agent as he talked to  Jane on his mobile phone.

Prior to that BT was pinged for one of its fibre adverts that boasted its fibre-based service could deliver the Internet ‘instantly’.

But BT is not alone here. In June last year, Virgin Media was censured by the ASA over its ‘Stop the Broadband Con’ website and an Internet banner advert, after they were judged to be misleading.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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