Advertising watchdogs have rapped a leading broadband company for misleading consumers over the speed of its service.
The landmark ruling against Bulldog Communications fires a warning shot to all broadband advertisers if they claim their service can reach ‘up to’ a top speed. This is because many customers won’t have the required signal strength to achieve a high speed if they don’t live near a phone exchange.
A voiceover in a Bulldog TV advert said: ‘With up to 8meg broadband, more people can play, email, download and talk, together, all at the same time.’
Competitor NTL complained to the (ASA). It said that only people who lived within 3km of an exchange would get 8 megabits per second (Mbps), and those living further away would receive a slower service.
Two members of the public also complained. One said their connection had never exceeded 5Mbps.
Bulldog argued that its ads were in line with previous ASA rulings which said the words ‘up to’ should be used to show that the top speed may not be achieved. But the watchdog ruled that ‘up to’ is an adequate qualification in ads for 1Mbps and 2Mbps services – since many households will receive close to the maximum speed. But the ASA ruled it out for ads promoting higher-speed services, since a significant number of consumers wouldn’t be able to receive speeds close to those quoted.
The ASA asked Bulldog to say in future ads that top speeds varied significantly depending on a user’s distance from their local exchange. The ruling will have a knock-on effect for other high-speed broadband suppliers who will have to include the same message in similar adverts.
A spokeswoman for Pipex, which recently took over the Bulldog brand, said:’It has only been just over a week since our acquisition of the Bulldog customer base and already Pipex is reviewing all sales and marketing related activity, as well as all areas of customer management and support. We have ensured that there are no existing breaches of ASA guidelines and any future marketing activity will, of course, comply with any guidelines set out by the ASA.’