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Sky told to stop exaggerating reliability of its broadband

Thursday, April 2nd 2015 by Dean Reilly

Claims of 99.9% Sky broadband "network reliability" were likely to mislead consumers, the advertising standards watchdog has found.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found that the broadband page of sky.com could lead consumers to think the near 100% figure referred to how reliable their overall service would be.

This is despite small print explaining the figure related to connections to local exchanges.

The ruling came as a result of an investigation following a complaint from rival broadband provider Virgin Media.

Text on the page stated "Super reliable, totally unlimited Sky Broadband. Sky Broadband Unlimited has 99.9% core network reliability and we're not stopping there.

“We're future proofing our network by constantly innovating and investing in the most modern technology to bring our customers even faster Sky Broadband Unlimited. We also monitor your connection to delivery our best speed and stability."

Small print below the main advertisement added: "Sky's network delivers 99.9% average uptime to your local exchange. Sky's network is part of your overall connection and other factors affect your overall reliability (e.g. home wiring, equipment & websites you visit).”

Complainant Virgin Media said that while it understood that Sky's core network was only responsible for a small proportion data transferred by consumers, consumers might mistakenly believe their complete broadband service was 99.9% reliable.

In response, British Sky Broadcasting said that since core networks carry all data requested by customers, their reliability is of importance to users.

Sky also said that the ad clearly stated that factors other than Sky's network could affect customers' overall reliability, and felt that consumers would not overlook this explanation.

Exaggerated and misled

The ASA noted that most consumers were more concerned with the reliability of their overall or "end-to-end" broadband connection rather than the reliability of certain portions of it.

Consumers, the ASA said, would consider the overall reliability as more important when making a decision to purchase a broadband package.

Furthermore, the accompanying explanatory text for the prominent headline of "99.9% Sky network reliability" did not, according to the ASA, adequately qualify the claims made.

The advertising regulator added that consumers would not be aware of the difference between an internet service provider's core network and the users' overall internet connection.

As a result, the ASA ruled that Sky had given the impression that the 99.9% reliability claim was in reference to a customer’s complete broadband service rather than part of it, and was misleading – upholding the initial complaint from Virgin Media.

It was determined that the advertisement breached four Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) rules.

The ASA said the advertisement could mislead or be likely to mislead consumers. It had also exaggerated the capability or performance of the advertised product and failed to state significant limitations and qualifications.

The ASA ruling means that the advertisement cannot appear in the same way again. In addition, the ASA told British Sky Broadcasting to ensure that claims about reliability of service were clearly qualified in the future.

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