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back to article BT ad banned for 'misleading' customers over broadband speeds

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a BT television advert, after the watchdog concluded that customers had been misled by the telecom giant’s broadband speed claims. ASA said that the TV ad in question featured a voice-over that claimed BT was “rolling out up to 20 meg speeds” to provide punters with “ …

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Any "up to" advertising is misleading

So ban them all! There I feel better.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: Any "up to" advertising is misleading

How is it misleading?

How would you present it?

Just askin...

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Paris Hilton

how about

using the word "typical"

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Anonymous Coward

Or how about "between"

"Up to 8meg" means "between 0 and 8meg" but for some reason the advertisers never say that. "Between 7 and 8meg" would actually provide useful information.

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I was thinking "average"

...but "typical" and "between" are even better suggestions.

Maybe in the future a canny advertiser will brag about low latency, that's another easily digestible metric which can be competed with, and has the added bonus of being useful.

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Anonymous Coward

can't use typical

Because it has a specific definition in advertising. In order to say typical, a certain %age of their customers *must* receive that speed, not more and not less.

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Thumb Down

@How is it misleading?

It doesn't indicate what proportion if any of the traffic ever gets to the theoretical maximum

It doesn't indicate the customers typical experience for most (that's well over 50% in case you don't understand) of their time online. You work in IT, right?

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Re: How would you present it?

Average would be acceptable, but median would be even better since it represents the typical speed without bias.

These are rather obvious, I and dare say the reason advertisers do not use them is because they are not that interested in revealing accurate numbers in the first place.

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RE: Any "up to" advertising is misleading

How about "The minimum speed is ..."

Its blindingly obvious really. So obvious that OFCOM SHOULD HAVE INSISTED ON IT FOR THE LAST 10 YEARS. Just another regulator failing to do what they're paid for. Utterly, utterly useless.

Mind you, how 17 complainants can have such disproportionate influence beggars belief. Its certainly not democracy at work. Not that we live in a democracy...

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Anonymous Coward

Most?

Erm, most means very specifically more than half - not "well over 50%". You can do maths, right?

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Unhappy

It's a shame...

...they can't ban adverts just for featuring repulsive characters. Then we wouldn't have seen a BT ad for years and years....

3 meg here on the edge of St Albans. Quote from BT Openreach engineer: "That's pretty good for round here." FFS!

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Flame

It's a shame...

First priority is that f**king go compare idiot!!!

They can play wall to wall crap BT adverts if they just get rid of that git.

Whoever came up with that advert needs to get every sexual disease going.

Followed closely by the idiots who "sell any car"...

Mine's the 16Mb+ pipe that talks Deutsch... Sorry

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Mine's the 25Mb pipe that talks Deutsch...

Best of all, I actually get what I pay for - the router actually connects with the DSLAM at *slightly* more (and I do mean *slightly* - it's 25,088Kb downstream and 5,048Kb upstream) than the advertised speed of 25Mb down and 5Mb up. Downloads at 2.5MB/second are fairly common, too - so I'm not convinced that the contention ratio is that high.

Actually, to be truthful, I couldn't care about the 25Mb downstream - it may as well be 16Mb for all I download. But the 5Mb upstream is a true gem - sending large e-mails is a breeze, and I can even use high-quality video for videoconferencing, since I know I'm not limited to 250Kb, as my mother is on her Virgin 20Mb connection. When I upgrade to 50Mb, it won't be because of the downstream - again - it will be because the Deutsche Telekom kindly provide me with 10Mb upstream...

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Bronze badge
Badgers

Dog Bites Dog

"The company’s rivals – Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin – were among the 17 complainants who contacted ASA about the ad’s 20Mb claims"

It's fair enough attacking rivals when there's a case to be had, and I expect they are all as likely to bite each other, but it doesn't seem any of them are particularly good at keeping their own houses in order or being entirely clear or forthright as to what their service limitations are.

Virgin Media recently informed me I could get a number of extra TV channels "free" if I upgraded my service which required a payment :-)

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Paris Hilton

@Jason Bloomberg

Can't you ask them to record the conversation and then make a statement either:

a). It is not free.

b). It is free.

If b). Ask them to provide it, permanently, free of charge or you will consult the ASA / Citizens Advice and request a copy of the recording as evidence.

That'll learn 'em.

Paris...she gives it away for free.

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WTF?

complaint

Nice to see that on only 17 complaints from which included rival companies that they start an investigation, i wonder how many average joe complaints it would have taken to do something about it...

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Silver badge

Answer: 1

I made a complaint to the ASA about an advert - I think it was also BT - that seemed to suggest that with the ISPs software it was safe to let children browse unsupervised. I believe mine was the only complaint and they still investigated. The whole process was amazingly clear and transparent. These people really are one of the best consumer protection organisations.

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Mislead

That just proves the ASA was correct to ban the add - almost everyone has obvioulsy been misled by it!

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ASA and the "ordinary bloke"

I too have made a couple of complaints about adverts on TV. Both were acknowledged, and although neither was upheld (the companies satisfied the ASA that the ads were 'reasonable') they were investigated and I received notifications and explanations. It did take quite a time, but I was satisfied that I had been heard. In both cases the number of complainants was not high (under a hundred), but the number of complaints was irrelevant to the case (I gathered that the adjudicators didn't even see the numbers or who made the complaints, only the complaints themselves).

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Title Required

I welcome this decision, but more needs to be done.

Plenty of companies out there mislead customers everyday, especially with unlimited this, and unlimited that, often neglecting to point out FUP's - something which Mobile Networks are terrible for, for example.

It's about time there was a crack down on this kind of thing, they are pretty much lying to people.

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FAIL

This "up to" lark has to stop.

and stop now. It's about time they are forced to advertise accurately. It's not beyond the wit of BT engineers to advise the real speed on your line. Even their bloody speed checker site gives you an "up to" speed, in my case "up to" 8Mbps, though the speed monitoring device I have attached shows I get 1.84Mbps MAX and not a single bit more, at peak times significantly less :-(

“rolling out up to 20 meg speeds” - Yeah right, there's not even a date given for my exchange:

There is currently no 21CN migration date for your PSTN service.

Bah.

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Silver badge

We need better measurements:

The difference between 20Mb/s and 4Mb/s is, in the majority of domestic situations, only relevant for large downloads or multiple users (e.g. family members) on the same connection.

How about a meaningful measurement? Video channels would be a good measure - a video channel being, say, the delivery of std def video with less than 5 stutters per hour, or 5 seconds total stutter per hour. Then I could order '3 video channel' internet for my family. Any period when a connection is not capable of '1 channel' could reasonably be considered not to be broadband at all, just some sort of low speed, high jitter, always on connection. For instance, my ISP - SKY - struggles to keep a single 256Kbps radio channel going --- it is almost as bad as DAB between 16:00 and 20:00.

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Anonymous Coward

Hello

"though the speed monitoring device I have attached "

With the what now?

Sounds like you might have problems with internal cabling.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: Better measurements

" Video channels would be a good measure - a video channel being, say, the delivery of std def video with less than 5 stutters per hour, or 5 seconds total stutter per hour. Then I could order '3 video channel' internet for my family."

Yeah but that won't give a reflection of how much data is being used or the total quality of service received. So I suggest equating it to something the size of a fridge for the bandwidth say 1 fridge per mbps of bandwidth and a bag of frozen peas to represent the usage allowance with 1 bag of peas = 1Gb.

That way people will be able to say I have 4 fridges and 25 bags of frozen peas of internet.

Easy!

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Meaningful?

Meaningful to whom precisely?

I can probably squeeze a "std def" (I assume you mean standard definition, which could mean anything from 320x240 to 640x480 to different people) channel of black with some good encoding/compression down the 256K channel you're complaining won't work for radio.

But then, stream a normal film with an enormous bitrate (co compression), add in (uncompressed) 7.1 surround sound and you'll be lucky to stream it on a 20Mbit connection running at full speed.

It's still not going to help when the carrier advertises "up to 10 meaningful measurements worth of bandwidth" and you find you can only get less than one at peak time. They said "up to" and you're getting somewhere below the limit, you got what you're paying for.

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Boffin

Hello to you

I'm taking part in nationwide broadband speed monitoring, I won't say with whom, but I'm sure someone knows :-)

No problems with my internal cabling I can assure you.

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Anonymous Coward

forced to advertise accurately

How exactly would that work? Personalised adverts for every building in the country?

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Up to = less than

I was in a nasty chain store the other day which had a massive "always up to 60% off" sign painted across one wall. Surely that's true of everywhere? 0% off is still "up to 60%". It should read "never more than 60% off"...

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Anonymous Coward

What do you want to buy

A half empty glass or a half full glass?

No one forces anyone to buy any of this shit anyway.

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Stop

yep, it's horseshite

'up to' - what a joke, maybe the daily mail needs to run a piece about this 'up to' garbage and have some of their middle class quotes from enraged vicars in berkshire. i may actually back them because it's a nationwide issue where customers are being sold fluff:

'heres your new car sir, it does up to 120 mph and up to 50mpg'

oh, and someone please just murder that couple from the bt ads so we can see a big funeral - 'BT, bringing the family together'

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FAIL

Re: yep, it's horseshite

"maybe the daily mail needs to run a piece about this 'up to' garbage"

..which will then only be read by Daily Mail readers. You see the problem with your idea?

"'heres your new car sir, it does up to 120 mph and up to 50mpg'"

Good analogy! The national speed limit is 70MPH and your fuel economy depends on you not driving like a prat. These are givens, as are variable bit rates over distance to people who understand DSL technology.

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slightly off topic

We are getting more advert time on our tvs because ad revenue is dropping.

But there is no correlation being drawn between the falling effectiveness of adverts and their lack of quality / annoying nature / untrue content.

If we had a world where that decision to allow more advertising time on the tele had involved consumer representations then maybe we could have demanded more honesty for our greater eyeball time.

The BT couple make me think of buying gold blend, and how much BT just make me cringe at their BS.

Advertising folk are right up there with estate agents and traffic wardens!

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Personally

I always thought they should ban the advert on the grounds its encouraging people to hack into other peoples wifi access, as the advert implies that the estate agent is using the home owners broadband.

If he were using a 3G modem, then having BT broadband wouldnt make it go faster anyway.

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Unhappy

Broadband?

I've never watched that advert and thought of the estate agent using the premises' broadband. I've always made the assumption that he'd be on a 3G modem, and the advert was fundamentally dishonest and misleading because of that. Then again, it's an advert. Who expects truth from adverts? They are usually viewed with the same level of honesty and integrity as politicians.

And please, please don't get me started on the redefinition of the word 'unlimited'....

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Bronze badge

This is why...

...for all the stick Virgin Media get, which from my experience* is completely undeserved, I cannot really fault them**. They advertise 10Mb, I pay for 10Mb and I get 10Mb.

A friend is waiting for her BT hub to turn up and I can't wait to see how much she actually gets of the "12Mb" line she's paying .

* Cable connection

** Apart from their brief dalliance with Phorm, and I don't even mind their daytime bandwidth restrictions.

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Thumb Up

Hear hear

Does what it says on the tin.

(...bandwidth throttling notwithstanding of course, however the clear message from VM is to do your downloading overnight.)

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Virgin has a cheek

Since they throttle you so hard during "peak time" (about half the day) that 10 minutes of usage sees you drop to 1/4 of the speed that you're paying for, for the next 5 hours.

Their "10Mbit/s" service is therefore *at best* a 5Mbit/s or so if you actually try to use it. Cue "I'll come back when you have none" jokes.

Unsurprisingly, the ASA couldn't understand that, even when I provided them with graphs and everything, and rejected my complaint about Virgin's advertising. Maybe BT would like to take another poke at it...

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Anonymous Coward

Title

Now can we have someone look at Virgins 'fibre optic' claim ? Or have they figured out a way of transmitting light down copper co-ax ?

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Bronze badge

About time

This looks as if it might be the first step on getting some honesty.

It's a long road.

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Bronze badge

Meanwhile, in a sidebar near you...

Virgin Media advertising, and I suspect they're comparing their future dream with their competitors' current reality (on average). But tough luck if Virgin Media's wet string isn't running past your house.

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Adam

By Jove, I hate those ads. Have you seen the football one? ARRRGH!

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sadly yes

And that last grinning pillock, whoever he is, makes me want to thump him one.

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Flame

What about the tie in?

My personal bugbear is that the mobile internet crowd and the nastier ISPs like BT try to tie their customers in for 12 months. Surely this is a con that should be ruthlessly stamped upon for restricting competition?

At least with a mobile provider, they tie you in so that they can recoup the cost of the handset that they had just given you. Since when did BT or any 3G dongle require 12 months tie-in in order to recoup the costs?

Surely this is as big a scam as the 'up to' thing?

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WTF?

Tie in

By god, you're right. It's well known that the kit manufacturers provide DSLAMs and routers for free and that the installation work is done by pixies and elves who only require a buttercup full of milk in payment.

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Megaphone

As everyone else seems to be saying...

...the advertising of broadband speeds and services needs cleaning up across the board. They're all a bunch of lying poltroons taking advantage of what is, largely, a technically naive user base. Most ordinary punters in the UK wouldn't really understand the first thing about broadband speeds if you hit them with a stick, so misleading advertising is even more of an issue.

It's also really annoying to see this kind of advertising when you happen to live in a rural area where even 1 meg (or half a meg) is good going - assuming that you can get any kind of broadband service at all. Especially when you know full well that none of the companies involved in this particular circle jerk are ever going to want to provide any kind of better service ("oh no, we can't do that, it wouldn't be economical sir") and yet, at the same time, you have thick-headed and cloth-eared Government ministers wanting more and more unavoidable, official paperwork completing online (with no offline alternative) while the corporate world just blithely assumes that absolutely everybody has at least a 10 meg service straight into a major colo somewhere.

Insufferable tossers the lot of 'em.

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FAIL

No adding up...

Watchdog:

" BT did not provide sufficient evidence to support its statement in the commercial."

BT:

"the ad were backed up by independent data from broadband monitoring outfit Epitro and an individual statistician."

So either the watchdog didn't see this evidence, or believed it was utter bullshit. You choose.

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What excellent service

It only took them about 9 months to decide to ban the ad, that's quite impressive. I haven't even seen that particular one for months now, they've put out at least 2 or 3 more since the one that's been banned and they all say pretty much the same thing, so will those ones also be banned or will there have to be complaints made about each one and a similar turnaround time to ban each one in turn?

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It gets worse

BT consistently limits speeds through stupidly high contention ratios and over-zealous throttling. It's quite right the advert should be banned (though not necessarily for the stated reasons), as the speed of the last mile really isn't the bottleneck in many cases.

Worse still if you live in an area where there's no unbundling in your local exchange, all providers are having to delegate to BT, and this poor excuse-for-a-service is forced upon you regardless of any efforts to switch to competitors.

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Anonymous Coward

title

"The ad itself is one of a series of annoying vignettes featuring a matey bloke (Adam) and a boring woman (Jane) becoming metaphorically wrapped in telephone cables as their love blossoms."

How about some realism in advertising?

* couple start having sex *

* caption: "45 seconds later" appears on screen *

Man: I have AIDS

Woman: Well I have BT broadband

Man: NOOOOOOOOOOOOO

* voice over: "well at least BT broadband isn't contagious" *

And £50 million quid to the ad agency for that gem.

"The company’s rivals – Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin – were among the 17 complainants who contacted ASA about the ad’s 20Mb claims."

LOL get in.

"The company said it had not intended to 'mislead' customers"

No, they prefer the word "scam"

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Daft ad.

I always thought the BT ad. was stupid. It shows some guys waiting for a webpage to load because it was peak time, which suggests the problem was either congestion or an overloaded web server. Neither of these would be fixed by moving to a faster broadband connection.

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