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ASA Adjudication on British Telecommunications plc

British Telecommunications plc t/a BT

81 Newgate Street
London
EC1A 7AJ

Date:

23 October 2013

Media:

Television

Sector:

Computers and telecommunications

Number of complaints:

3

Agency:

Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

Complaint Ref:

A13-233658

Ad

A TV ad, for BT, featured images of mobile phones, radios and various other household devices. The voice-over stated, "There's no end of things around the home that can disrupt your wireless internet ... The new BT Home Hub uses smart dual band to reduce dropout s..." On-screen text stated "Signal avoids interference from non-WiFi devices".

Issue

The complainant challenged whether the ad was misleading, because it implied that significant interference was caused by the devices shown when he understood that was not the case.

BCAP Code

Response

BT said that more broadband customers were using Wi-Fi to connect a growing number of personal devices such as computers, smart phones and tablets, and many of those users also had non-Wi-Fi devices such as TV senders, wireless security cameras and baby monitors that used the same radio band.  They told us that the 2.4 GHz spectrum was heavily congested and susceptible to interference, which could lead to poor and unreliable performance, particularly in urban environments.  They referred us to a 2009 Ofcom report which had concluded that interference from non-Wi-Fi devices was commonplace and was a more important cause of wireless networking problems than congestion.

Clearcast endorsed BT's reponse.

Assessment

Upheld

The ASA noted the Ofcom report had found that interference from non-Wi-Fi devices had more of an impact on performance than congestion as a result of Wi-Fi devices competing for access.  However, when we sought clarification from Ofcom, they advised that the devices that were found to cause particular problems were baby monitors and video senders, but not Private Mobile Radio devices or mobile phones. We acknowledged that the report also mentioned microwave ovens as a possible source of interference.  We were concerned that the ad prominently featured a ringing mobile phone, when using such a device for telephone calls would not cause interference of the kind described. We further noted that the ad also featured images of radios, which Ofcom had also advised did not pose a particular problem in terms of interference.  Whilst we acknowledged that the evidence supplied by BT showed that some non-Wi-Fi household devices could potentially affect the performance of Wi-Fi devices, we considered that the inclusion of images of mobile phones and radios implied that consumers who had those items in their homes may experience problems due to interference when we had not seen any evidence to that effect.  We therefore concluded that the ad was misleading.

The ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.9 (Substantiation).

Action

The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form.

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