ASA Bans Another BT Broadband Ad Over Speeds

BT has been rapped by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over a series of adverts for its 20Mbit/s services, the second time in a month BT has been forced to withdraw some of its advertising.

The complaints centered on a claim by BT that its rollout of speeds of up to 20Mbit/s could give a "consistently faster broadband even at peak times", when compared to the firm's existing 8Mbit/s service.

Of the 17 complaints received, some argued that the claims made by BT were potentially misleading and questioned whether they could be substantiated, while others said a visual demonstration of the speeds in the TV advert was misleading.

Interestingly, of the complaints received by the ASA, three were from major internet service providers (ISPs) TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Sky.

Sky challenged that the claim by BT that its speeds would provide a consistently faster broadband even at peak times was misleading in the context of a comparison made with industry averages, because BT operates a traffic management policy.

Sky and TalkTalk argued the newspaper adverts were misleading because they did not make clear on-going restrictions on the availability of the 20Mbit/s service and that industry comparison figures were not suitable for fair use.

The ASA upheld these complaints, acknowledging that data BT had used for comparison was "not independently obtained and was not suitable for an industry-wide comparison".

Virgin Media and TalkTalk also challenged this part of the advert because they believed it was contradicted by a recent independent survey conducted by communications regulator Ofcom, the results of which were more robust as they were compiled over a much longer period of time.

However, the ASA did not uphold this complaint, noting that while Virgin Media and TalkTalk's objection was not contradicted by Ofcom's study, the research did not specifically take into account BT's 20 Mbit/s service and so was not applicable in this instance.

Nevertheless, the ASA has told BT that the adverts must not run again in their current form.

This is the second time this month the ASA has taken action against BT over misleading advertising, prompting the regulator to remind the firm to ensure it held " robust documentary evidence to prove all claims capable of objective substantiation".

BT expressed disappointment with the ASA's judgment and said it had never set out to mislead customers.

"We're disappointed by the ASA's overall adjudication, but pleased that it rejected Virgin's and TalkTalk's claim that BT does not offer consistently faster broadband speeds than the industry average," it said.

"When the ads appeared we wanted to highlight our offer of consistently faster web browsing through up to 20Mbit/s broadband in newly enabled exchange areas; there was no intention to mislead."

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