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BSkyB-owned BE slams into traffic pile-up over 'unlimited' broadband lie

Brits punished for downloading too much? Sounds more like 'limited', says ASA

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Telco BE - now owned by BSkyB - has been admonished by Blighty's ad watchdog for misleading its customers with unsubstantiated claims about its broadband.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld gripes from three complainants who challenged the ISP's claims that it offered "unlimited usage" to customers - despite having a traffic-management policy in place that punished heavy internet downloaders.

BE advertised three ADSL broadband packages - value, unlimited and pro - on its website and stated for each deal that "unlimited usage" applied. But Brits only learned that the ISP threatened to suspend broadband connectivity for some heavy users of its network after clicking through a number of links on the company's website.

Eventually, if one looked hard enough, BE admitted: "A very fair usage policy applies."

In response to the complaints, the company told the ASA that very few of its customers would have their accounts suspended for exceeding BE's fair-use policy. Of its 68,000 subscribers in 2012, BE smacked down 224 customers whose monthly data usage had exceeded 150GB. The telco said it specifically looked at telephone exchanges where utilisation was higher than 80 per cent of available capacity in the previous calendar month.

The ad regulator disagreed with BE's argument and upheld the complaints. It said:

The ASA considered that the claim 'unlimited' would be interpreted by readers to mean that they would be able to use the service to download and upload as much data as they wished at any time without limit or penalty.

We understood, however, that users on congested exchanges using more than 150 GB in a month would be contacted and asked to reduce their usage in peak hours or face having their service suspended; we noted two users had left BE after being contacted about the FUP and that a significant number had been warned to change their usage behaviour.

We therefore considered that, although it affected only a small proportion of customers, the service was restricted for those using more than 150 GB in a month on some exchanges and was therefore not unlimited. As a result, we concluded that the claim 'unlimited' was misleading.

The ASA told BE not to wrongly claim that its service was unlimited. It is perhaps good timing, then, that BSkyB recently bought the ISP. After all, its old company name was BE Un Limited. (BE was renamed Sky Home Communications Ltd, but it trades under the BE brand while its service migrates to Sky's internet network.) ®

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