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BT ad banned for 'misleading' customers over broadband speeds

For once, it's not the estate agent's fault

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The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a BT television advert, after the watchdog concluded that customers had been misled by the telecom giant’s broadband speed claims.

ASA said that the TV ad in question featured a voice-over that claimed BT was “rolling out up to 20 meg speeds” to provide punters with “consistently faster broadband throughout the day even at peak times.”

The regulator received 17 complaints about the advert and, following an investigation, confirmed that BT did not provide sufficient evidence to support its statement in the commercial.

ASA concluded that the ad was therefore likely to mislead customers.

The ad itself is one of a series of annoying vignettes featuring a matey bloke (Adam) and a boring woman (Jane) becoming metaphorically wrapped in telephone cables as their love blossoms.

But the ad, which showed the couple looking for a new home with an estate agent, has backfired. BT said today it was disappointed with ASA’s ruling.

The company’s rivals – Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin – were among the 17 complainants who contacted ASA about the ad’s 20Mb claims.

"Because we had not seen sufficient evidence to support the claim that BT's new broadband service was consistently faster than its existing 8Mb service even at peak times, we concluded that the ad was likely to mislead," said ASA.

"We noted BT's new service was available to fewer than half of all households and the roll out, increasing that figure to 75 per cent, was anticipated to take around two years.

"We noted that a significant proportion of the population could not get the service at the time the ad appeared and therefore considered the ad should have made that clear. Because it did not, we concluded that it was likely to mislead."

BT’s advert is not allowed to appear on screen in its current form, said the watchdog.

The company said it had not intended to “mislead” customers, and added that its claims in the ad were backed up by independent data from broadband monitoring outfit Epitro and an individual statistician.

"At the time the ads appeared, BT had just started rolling out a new up-to-20Mb broadband service across the country and we wanted to highlight the higher speeds available in newly enabled exchange areas offering customers consistently faster web browsing in comparison to BT's up-to-8Mb service,” said the company in a statement.

Meanwhile, channel resellers have welcomed ASA’s ruling.

"This will no doubt please TCA [Technology Channels Association] members who are not happy that they have to adjust users perceptions as to what is realistically achievable," the trade group's president Keith Warburton told The Register this morning. ®

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