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BT's mobe interference claim laughed off air by ad watchdog

Telco slapped for misleading customers over mobiles, radio

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BT misled consumers with a TV ad that wrongly claimed that mobile phones and radios caused interference with wireless networks, the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled.

A voice-over in BT's commercial crowed that such devices, alongside other household gadgets, caused "no end" of disruption to Wi-Fi internet connections in the home.

The telecoms giant then boasted that the signal on its new Home Hub "avoids interference" from non-wireless kit such as baby monitors that used the same radio band.

A complainant successfully challenged BT's claim, by arguing that the telco had implied that radios and mobile phones caused "significant" interruptions to Wi-Fi networks.

The ASA agreed, despite BT contesting the complaint by saying that – based on a 2009 communications regulatory report from Ofcom – the 2.4 GHz spectrum was "heavily congested and susceptible to interference".

The watchdog said it had sought clarification from Ofcom, which advised the ASA that mobile radio devices and mobile phones did not pose particular problems to wireless networks. It said:

We were concerned that the ad prominently featured a ringing mobile phone, when using such a device for telephone calls would not cause interference of the kind described. We further noted that the ad also featured images of radios, which Ofcom had also advised did not pose a particular problem in terms of interference.

Whilst we acknowledged that the evidence supplied by BT showed that some non-Wi-Fi household devices could potentially affect the performance of Wi-Fi devices, we considered that the inclusion of images of mobile phones and radios implied that consumers who had those items in their homes may experience problems due to interference when we had not seen any evidence to that effect. We therefore concluded that the ad was misleading.

The regulator ruled that the ad must not be broadcast on television again in its current form. ®

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