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Vodafone 'unbeatable' mobile coverage claims were misleading - ASA

Wednesday, September 2nd 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Two Vodafone ads claiming the provider’s mobile coverage is “unbeatable” were misleading, according to the UK’s advertising watchdog.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has told Vodafone the adverts must not appear again in their current form.

The claims were made in a national press ad and on Vodafone’s website, where the company said it was “unbeatable at connecting calls”.

Text in the press advertisement said: “Many people on the UK’s transplant waiting list never go anywhere without their mobile; in case they get that call that could change their life. We’re unbeatable at connecting your calls. Because to us, whether life changing or not, every call matters.”

Small print at the bottom of the ad said the claims were based on network tests carried out in 26 towns and cities against Vodafone’s three main competitors.

Rival provider Three questioned whether the claims were misleading and whether they could be substantiated.

The ASA said consumers were likely to interpret the ads as making ‘top parity’ claims – that Vodafone’s network is as good as other mobile operator's for call connection and dropped call performance.

The regulator said Vodafone had taken a robust approach to testing but it didn’t think the 26 towns and cities gave a true representation of Vodafone’s UK coverage.

'Insufficient'

“We noted there were no locations in Wales or Northern Ireland and that the two Scottish locations were approximately 10 miles away from each other,” said the ASA in its assessment.

“We therefore considered that most of Scotland had been excluded from the sample. We noted that the majority of locations were in the West Midlands, north west of England, West Yorkshire and London, which left the south east, south west and north east of England excluded.

“Given that large geographical areas of the UK were omitted from the sample, we considered it was insufficiently widespread to be considered a true representation of UK consumers’ experience of call connection and dropped calls.

“Furthermore, because we considered the ads created the overall impression that the claims related to Vodafone’s performance across the UK, we considered the qualification contradicted rather than clarified the ads.”

The ASA said Vodafone’s substantiation was “insufficient” to support its claims in the ads, therefore making them misleading.

“We told Vodafone Ltd not to imply they performed as well as other mobile network operators on call connection and dropped calls performance across the UK coverage unless they held suitable substantiation.”

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