BT broadband speed ads banned by ASABT 20Mbps broadband claims 'misleading'

25 August 2010

A broadband USB plug

Broadband speeds are rarely as fast as advertised

Broadband giant BT has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) from using several of its broadband ads after advertising claims about 20Mbps BT Total Broadband speeds were found to be misleading to customers.

All ads - a TV ad, three radio ads and a national press ad for BT Total Broadband - made the claim that BT was rolling out up to 20Mbps broadband speeds to give customers 'consistently faster broadband even at peak times'. 

Most ads noted that this was in comparison to BT's 8Mbps service, though the press ad compared BT's performance at peak times with the ADSL broadband industry average.

Find out why advertised broadband speeds rarely match reality in the Which? guide on how to increase your broadband speed

Complaints from viewers and BT broadband rivals

The ASA received a total of 17 complaints from viewers and listeners as well as rival broadband providers Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media. 

Complaints about BT's 20Mbps broadband speed claims in the ads included:

  • The comparison of a consistently faster speed at peak times using BT's 20Mbps broadband versus BT's 8Mbps service was regarded as misleading and unable to be substantiated
  • The speed of the visual demonstration on the woman's laptop in the TV ad was believed to be faster than that which could be achieved ordinarily at any connection speed
  • It was believed that figures used as the basis of the claim to be consistently faster than the ADSL average were not independently obtained and could have been affected by the particular telephone lines selected

20Mbps claims 'likely to mislead'

The ASA upheld the vast majority of complaints it received relating to these BT Total Broadband ads, including all complaints from viewers and listeners. 

In its ruling, it stated that the claim of consistently faster broadband even at peak times in comparison to BT's 8Mbps service was likely to lead people to believe that this was the case in all instances. 

However, the ASA said that it had not seen sufficient evidence to support this claim would stand up consistently for all types of web use, rather than just web browsing, and that the ad was therefore likely to mislead. It also ruled that it had not seen sufficient evidence to substantiate the claim of BT 20Mbps Total Broadband being consistently faster than the ADSL industry average even at peak times. 

The ASA additionally felt that the speed of browsing on the woman's laptop in the TV ad was not representative of reality, and that this was misleading in an ad focusing on the benefits of a faster service.  

Which? broadband expert Ceri Stanaway says: 'Real-life broadband speeds often fail to measure up to advertising claims, and it's good news that the ASA has clamped down on BT broadband speed ads that could mislead consumers. 

'We'd like the ASA to now turn its attention to broadband speed advertising across the broadband industry and make sure that broadband customers are never misled into expecting speeds that Ofcom research has shown simply aren't delivered in practice.'

BT 20Mbps availability

The ASA also received complaints from Sky and TalkTalk about the limited availability of the BT Total Broadband service advertised. 

BT's 20Mbps total broadband service at the time of the ads was available to less than half of UK households, and roll-out to 75% of households was anticipated to take around two years. Although the BT ads noted in the small print that availability was dependent on line and location, the ad did not make this clear enough according to the ASA.  

Not sure whether the best broadband deals are available where you live? Check Which? broadband reviews to find out what percentage of households can get each broadband package from leading providers. 

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