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BT's fibre broadband speed claims broke advertising rules

Wednesday, October 12th 2016 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

BT broke advertising rules by claiming its standard fibre broadband package was the fastest basic fibre deal on the market.

The telecoms giant claimed BT Infinity 1 offers “the fastest fibre speeds as standard” in a TV ad starring Ryan Reynolds, a newspaper ad and on its website.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) took a look at the ads following a complaint by Virgin Media, which questioned whether they were misleading.

The watchdog said the maximum speed of BT’s product, at 52Mbps, was faster than the entry-level offerings of Sky, TalkTalk and Plusnet at up to 38Mbps and Virgin at up to 50Mbps.

But, the ASA pointed out, there are other providers whose cheapest – or only – service options offer faster maximum speeds than BT.

“We understood that the comparison was intended to be against major providers, but considered that the headline claim was very broad and would be understood as a whole-of-market comparison,” said the ASA in its ruling.

“We therefore considered that, given the likely consumer interpretation of the claim, ‘fastest fibre speeds as standard’ had not been adequately substantiated.”

A BT spokesperson said: “This complaint was upheld on a minor technicality relating to the exclusion of niche broadband providers whose products are only available on a limited basis in specific geographical locations, and not to the vast majority of the population (like BT Infinity).

“The fact is that no other major broadband provider offers their customers a faster fibre speed as standard, and on this point the ASA agreed with BT.”

Claims and expectations

Earlier this year, the ASA announced it would review broadband speed claims made in ads.

At the moment, providers can advertise headline speeds as long as they are preceded by the words ‘up to’ and can be achieved by at least 10% of customers.

But that could change depending on the findings of the research currently being carried out by the ASA and CAP – the Committees for Advertising Practice.

The two organisations are looking at the claims made by providers and the expectations consumers have based on them.

The way broadband packages are advertised is already changing at the end of month, as providers will have to include the cost of line rental in their headline price.

They will also need to give greater prominence to contract length, up-front costs and any post-discount pricing.

TalkTalk and Vodafone have already moved to a new ‘all-in’ pricing structure.

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