BT Fibre Coverage Checker Shut Down For ‘Misleading Consumers’

Advertising Standards Authority received 15 complaints about the quality of information provided

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has shut down the BT Infinity online coverage checker, after it emerged that the tool provided false information on installation dates and areas covered.

Now, BT will have to re-design the feature. The company said it plans to introduce a new version of the coverage checker in early 2013.

Broken promises

The coverage checker was designed to help customers establish the availability of BT’s fibre broadband in particular areas.

Fibre Broadband © Datskevich Aleh Shutterstock 2012According to uSwitch, the ASA ruled the tool should be taken offline after 15 individual customers complained it didn’t provide accurate information.

BT’s Openreach division stated that roll-out dates used in coverage calculations are provisional and “subject to change”, but according to ASA, this fact is currently not obvious enough.

“We considered that the appearance of a date, or provisional date in the availability checker, suggested that active plans were in place to roll out BT Infinity in that area, and that the service would therefore be available on or around that time, and the listed date should not be subsequently or regularly pushed back,” wrote the watchdog in its ruling.

According to the ASA, stating a false date of availability could have an impact on the long-term plans of customers, and their interest in BT products. Several complainants noted that BT would repeatedly change the expected fibre roll-out dates, and on one occasion, ASA found that the online checker would promise superfast broadband coverage in an area that wasn’t even considered for development by BT.

In its response, BT blamed street cabinet deployment delays and said it was working closely with Openreach to improve the accuracy of information. It also promised to “significantly amend” the availability checker.

“This is a disappointing ruling. People clearly want to know when fibre might become available in their area and so BT has been publishing its best estimates on a regular basis,” said the company in a statement.

“Those plans sometimes have to change however if local planning permission isn’t granted or we find that a third party can’t meet our deadlines. 15 complaints is a tiny number when you consider that BT is enabling tens of thousands of cabinets but we will work with the ASA to make changes where we can.”

What do you do when tech fails? Take our quiz!