ASA Raps BT For Inaccurate Speed Estimates

BT broadband availability checker gives inaccurate results rules advertising watchdog

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has told BT to remove a broadband availability checker from its website following complaints that it was not offering accurate information, leading customers to believe they would be getting faster speeds than actually possible.

A probe was launched after one complainant, who was told they could receive between 23Mbps and 33Mbps at their address, questioned whether such claims could be substantiated and whether they were misleading.

BT responded by stating that the speed range was “achievable” by consumers and was supported by an Ofcom broadband performance report. However it stated that it was unable to provide detailed analysis of non-BT customer lines as this was held by Openreach and didn’t have access to this information.

BT fibre claims

The-BT-Tower-2067841“Openreach explained that to estimate line speeds, they carried out detailed and large scale statistical analysis of possible speeds and the quoted values seen by the complainant were typical of what could be achieved by the vast majority of superfast broadband lines,” said the ASA. “They said the speed estimate ranged from the 80th to 20th percentile for similar phone lines, therefore, 80 percent of end-users could achieve the quoted speeds.

“They said they had checked the complainant’s line and confirmed that it lay outside the statistical range, and due to a variety of reasons, the complainant would be unable to achieve the quoted speeds.”

The watchdog ruled that since the availability checker returned results based on a user’s post code or phone number, potential customers would believe they were being given a tailored search result rather than a generalisation and this would be a key factor in deciding whether or not to take broadband from BT.

“Because the website included a download claim related to a specific address which was not available to that consumer, we concluded the ad was misleading,” the ASA said, adding that it had told BT the claims could not appear again in their current form and that the company must ensure its availability checker provides accurate information.

BT has come under fire for its online fibre checker before, with the ASA ordering the former state monopoly to shut down and re-design the feature last year. The ASA has also criticised a number of BT’s print and television adverts for misleading claims, most recently last year when one of its commercials implied that Wi-Fi devices such as smartphones could interfere with the signal of a wireless router.

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