ASA Adjudication on Bulldog Communications Ltd
Bulldog Communications Ltd
26 Red Lion Square
20 September 2006
Television, National press
Computers and telecommunications
Number of complaints:
A national press ad, for Bulldog, was headlined "The gate is open" and featured a gate opened to a meadow. The ad claimed "Up to 8 meg broadband for only £15.50* per month".
A TV ad, for Bulldog, had a voiceover that said "With up to 8 meg broadband, more people can play, e-mail, download and talk, together, all at the same time. With Bulldog, unlimited phone calls to your network friends are included. To find out more about Bulldog Broadband packages call now on 0800 or visit bulldogbroadband.com. Bulldog. Broadband and Phone." Onscreen text said "Broadband speed is up to 8meg downstream. Subject to local availability and Bulldog phone line".
1. ntl complained that the press ad was misleading because, due to the technical limitations of high speed broadband services, the maximum speed quoted would not be available to a significant number of people within the geographic areas in which the service was available. They provided figures that showed that, as the length of line between a local exchange and a customer's home increased, the broadband speed that could be achieved by the customer decreased. They said broadband speeds of 8 megabits per second (Mbps) or close to 8 Mbps could be achieved only by people who lived within 3 km of an exchange. Beyond that distance the achievable speed dropped rapidly because of unavoidable signal attenuation caused by line length and quality. The 35% of people who lived more than 3.8 km from an exchange, for example, would get at best a 5 Mbps connection. They believed the prefix "up to" was not an adequate indication that a large proportion of customers could not get a service close to the headline speed.
2. Two members of the public said the TV ad was misleading because the broadband speed quoted was not achievable for all users. One said their connection had never exceeded 5 Mbps and the others said they believed technical limitations would prevent users from achieving the headline speed.
Bulldog Communications (Bulldog) said their ads were in line with previous ASA adjudications and CAP guidance, which required claims about broadband speeds to be preceded with the words "up to" to indicate that the top speed might not be achieved by users.
They said a substantial proportion of customers using the "up to 8 meg" service achieved speeds of 8 Mbps, or close to 8 Mbps, and more than half of customers using the service achieved speeds of 6 Mbps or higher. They sent the results of customer speed tests for July 2005 and December 2005.
The Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC) said they agreed with Bulldog's comments.
The ASA noted Bulldog considered that the inclusion of the words "up to" was an adequate indication to consumers that they might not achieve the top speed quoted in the ads and that their ads were in line with previous ASA adjudications and CAP guidance. We considered that "up to" was an adequate qualification in ads for 1 Mbps and 2 Mbps services, where the user would not achieve the maximum speed because of factors such as the number of people on line but where the attainable speeds were close enough to those advertised so as not to affect the customers' experience in any meaningful way.
We considered that the higher speed service was likely to be attractive to consumers because of the advertised headline speed and the potential capabilities that a connection of that speed could give users. We understood, however, that the speeds 8Mbps services could deliver were significantly affected by signal attenuation, which was caused by distance from the exchange, and that as a result a significant proportion of consumers could not achieve speeds close to the headline speed. We understood that users of an up to 8Mbps service could take advantage of capabilities such as video streaming, file sharing and online gaming but that there would be a noticeable degradation of quality of the service when speeds fell below 6Mbps. We therefore considered that "up to" was not an adequate qualifier in ads for higher speed services, given the impact that signal attenuation could have on speed and performance. We concluded that the ads were misleading and asked Bulldog to amend them.
The press ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation) and 7.1 (Truthfulness).
The TV ad breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading advertising), 5.2.1 (Evidence) and 5.2.3 (Qualifications).
We asked Bulldog to indicate prominently in future ads (for example in the body copy of non-broadcast ads) that top speeds varied significantly, in particular because of a user's distance from their local exchange.