ASA Adjudication on Orange Personal Communications Services Ltd
Orange Personal Communications Services Ltd t/a
St James Court
Great Park Road
30 June 2010
Computers and telecommunications
Number of complaints:
A regional press ad for Orange mobile broadband showed an image of a dongle on top of a prize podium. The ad was headlined "top dongle". The body copy of the ad stated "No.1. Rated Best Mobile Broadband with Laptop by Top10-Broadband.co.uk The Orange 3G network covers more people in the UK than any other operator. And, from under £5 a month, you could be one of them".
Hutchison 3G UK Ltd challenged whether the claim "The Orange 3G network covers more people in the UK than any other operator" could be substantiated, because they believed that they had the largest 3G network in the UK, based on population coverage.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
Orange Personal Communications Services Ltd (Orange) said the claim "The Orange 3G network covers more people in the UK than any other operator" was based on population coverage as opposed to geographical coverage. They explained that most 3G mobile networks published their own population coverage statistics and that those showed the Orange 3G network covered 93.39% of the UK population, with Hutchinson 3G UK at 91%, Vodafone at 85% and O2 at 80%. They explained that the figures were based on the most up-to-date figures published by each of the mobile networks. They acknowledged that Hutchison 3G UK had the largest geographical coverage.
They said that their own population coverage percentages were calculated based on a marriage of in-house tools and recognised public domain population to location information and that the claim was capable of objective substantiation.
The ASA noted Orange had intended the claim to be a population coverage claim, meaning that Orange covered more people in the physical locations in which mobile broadband could be obtained than any other provider. However, we considered that the claim "The Orange 3G network covers more people in the UK than any other operator" was ambiguous in the context of a mobile broadband service because it did not make clear whether it was referring to Orange covering more people in the places where they lived than any other operator (population coverage), or more people in the UK, wherever they might be using their 3G mobile device (geographical coverage).
We noted Ofcom issued UK geographical coverage maps for the five major mobile networks and understood that these figures, although intended as guidance, were generally accepted by the industry; they did not show that Orange had the greatest geographical coverage.
We noted Ofcom did not issue specific data, guidance or otherwise, for population coverage within the geographical areas covered. 3G population coverage figures were collected and distributed by each of the mobile networks. We understood that Ofcom conducted its own 3G population coverage modelling, based on information from the operators about the location of their 3G transmitters, in order to establish whether each of the 3G networks had met the minimum threshold of coverage required to meet the obligations of the 3G licence. We also understood that although Ofcom publicly consulted on the methodology they would use to measure 3G population coverage, it did not publish the specific findings on the population coverage achieved by each of those networks.
We acknowledged that the complainant, Hutchison 3G, believed it had a greater population coverage than Orange. We understood that each 3G network had its own approach to substantiation and verification of coverage claims in respect of both geographic and population coverage, meaning that their methodologies were not directly comparable. Because Orange had not shown that the population coverage data they had supplied for their competitors networks was collected and reported on the same basis as their own, we considered that the claim "covers more people in the UK than any other operator" had not been substantiated.
We concluded that the ad was likely to mislead.
The ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 19.1 (Other comparisons).
The ad should not appear again in its current form. We told Orange not to compare their population coverage with that of competitors unless they could demonstrate that such claims were based on directly comparable measurement and reporting methods.
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)