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Claims that TalkTalk broadband was '99.9% reliable' were misleading

Wednesday, May 6th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Claims by TalkTalk that its broadband was “99.9% reliable” have been labelled misleading by the UK’s advertising watchdog.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) also criticised the internet service provider for not making it clear that a deal was available to new customers only.

The ASA investigated a TV ad for TalkTalk offering free unlimited broadband following four complaints.

Three viewers challenged whether a claim in the ad that TalkTalk’s network connection was “a whopping 99.9% reliable” was misleading and could be substantiated.

TalkTalk said it had measured the availability – the amount of time a network is up and running over a defined period of time – between January and August last year.

They said availability had been calculated at 99.9986% and that other factors beyond TalkTalk’s control were explained in the promotion’s terms and conditions.

The ASA said consumers would interpret “99.9% reliable” to refer to their complete broadband service.

“We considered most consumers would be interested in the reliability of their end-to-end broadband connection up to the point of their router or into their home,” said the ASA.

“Rather than the reliability of certain portions of the overall connection, when making a decision to purchase a broadband package with a particular internet service provider.”

'Switch today'

The regulator also noted that there are “external factors that would affect overall connection reliability, which we understood TalkTalk would not have control over”.

“Because the evidence did not substantiate the likely interpretation of the claim, we concluded the ad was misleading.”

One viewer, who understood the offer – free broadband for a year with £16.70 monthly line rental – was only available to new customers, asked whether the ad misleadingly omitted that information.

TalkTalk said it did not consider the fact the offer was only available to new customers to be “material information” and so did not include it in the ad.

However, it said its use of the phrase “switch today” made it clear the promotion was only for non-TalkTalk customers.

TalkTalk added that it had not previously received any complaints about the ad.

The ASA said using the phrase “switch today” was not sufficient to inform consumers the deal was only for new customers.

“We considered consumers might interpret ‘switch today’ to mean that they could switch to a different package as a TalkTalk customer and the on-screen text ‘£30 connection fee may apply’ reinforced that impression,” said the watchdog.

“Because the ad did not make it clear that the package was only available to new customers, we concluded it was misleading.”

TalkTalk has been told that the ad must not appear in its current form and that future ads must make network reliability claims clear and do not misleadingly imply deals are available to all customers.

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