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BT bitchslapped for misleading 'Join now' Infinity ad

ASA ruling after Virgin Media complains to watchdog

The war of words between Virgin Media and BT has once again landed on the steps of the UK's advertising watchdog, which upheld one out of three complaints brought by Virgin Media against its rival ISP.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said that it agreed with Virgin Media's concerns that a BT press ad with the statements “most of our customers are already seeing at least three times faster speeds” and “Join now ...” were misleading.

It said that would-be customers would interpret such declarations as meaning that BT's next-generation broadband service was already available to most, if not all, punters.

However, the ASA didn't uphold a complaint brought by Virgin Media against another BT press ad punting the telco's Infinity service, because while BT claimed that the service had "arrived" the company added in the small print that coverage was currently limited.

The ASA noted that BT had been upfront with readers of that ad, but had not been so clear in the advert that called on would-be customers to "Join now", because that advert failed to "indicate that the service has limited availability".

BT responded to the complaint that was upheld by the ASA by explaining that the "Join now" claim in the ad was an error, and added that in future the company would ensure that it made clear in the body copy of the ad that not all customers would be able to get the service.

On the "increased by three times" claim, BT said it was clear from the ad that it was referring to Infinity customers.

The ASA disagreed and ruled that the ad was misleading and said it mustn't appear in its original form.

A third advert placed on BT's website was also cleared by the ASA, after Virgin Media challenged a 20Mbit/s broadband product that it claimed might mislead customers into thinking it was based on fibre optic technology.

In its adjudication, the ASA wrote:

"We noted however that text in the paragraphs above the claim explained that BT Infinity was [its] 'new fibre optic broadband' and that the claim at issue itself stated 'If you can't get BT Infinity just yet, order up to 20Mbit/s broadband instead and we'll upgrade you to Infinity if and when it becomes available' which we considered made clear to readers that the 20Mbit/s service referred to was not a fibre optic product."

The ASA ruling is here. ®

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