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ASA slaps down BT over 'misleading' broadband claims

BSkyB complaints upheld amid battle between warring ISPs

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Those toothless tigers gummy stripy cats at the Advertising Standards Agency have given BT a talking to over "misleading" claims about overall broadband speeds, outpacing packages from both Sky and TalkTalk.

The Brit telco made an ad headed "Official", claiming it could "Superpower your broadband". It contained a cartoon man clutching a wireless router, and boasted that tests by comms watchdog Ofcom had found that on average BT has "better performance" for up to 16Mb customers.

This was challenged by BSkyB, which said the 2012 Ofcom report upon which BT had based its claims did not include Wi-Fi, that the performance assertions were misleading because they did not give sufficient weight to upload or download speeds or web browsing, and that the use of the term "official" suggested that BT's ad had been endorsed by Ofcom.

ASA hardliners came down on the side of BSkyB, agreeing the report by Ofcom pertained to fixed-line broadband performance of a number of ISPs which considered a range of metrics not outlined in the ad.

"We noted that the scope of the report did not include a comparison of the various ISPs Wi-Fi performance. We considered that, in the absence of any statement to the contrary consumers were likely to interpret an overall performance claim as encompassing Wi-Fi performance, particularly when the cartoon man featured in the ad was shown holding a wireless router," it said.

The ASA accepted Ofcom had found 18 metrics related to BT broadband performance that were equal to or better than Sky's net offer, but said the ad suggested download speeds were faster, what with the cartoon "superhero" holding the router with a cape flowing behind him.

"We understood that download speed was the factor most commonly associated with overall broadband speed and that the Ofcom report had not found that there was any significant difference between BT and Sky," it added.

On the last point upheld, the ad watchdog said the 2012 broadband report from which BT had drawn its claims did not draw any conclusions in regard of one ISP being better than another.

"Rather, we noted Ofcom had stated that it was important consumers understood the impact the various metrics would have on broadband performance so they could choose the service that would best meet their individual needs.

"We therefore considered it was misleading for BT to imply that the headline claim was taken directly from Ofcom's findings, rather than their own interpretation of them, when that was not the case," the ASA added.

The BT ad must not appear again as was, and the telco should spend two minutes on the naughty step to consider its behaviour. ®

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