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ASA Ruling on ZyXEL Communications Corp

ZyXEL Communications Corp

2 Old Row Court
Rose Street
Wokingham
RG40 1XZ

Date:

31 December 2014

Media:

Internet (on own site)

Sector:

Business

Number of complaints:

2

Complaint Ref:

A14-278708

Background

 Summary of Council decision:

Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.

Ad

A website, www.zyxel.com,  for ZyXEL, a company that supplied networking products featured text on the "Benfits" tab of the "PLA4201 500Mbps Mini Powerline Ethernet Adaptor" product page that stated "Upgrade Home Networks Effortlessly with the Most Compact Powerline Adapter The ZyXEL PLA4201 500 Mbps Mini Powerline Ethernet Adapter improves up to 60% performance for stable HD media streaming compared with 200 Mbps powerline technology.** Just plug a pair of PLA4201 into electric outlets and connect to network devices, then you can enjoy HD media streams, multiplayer gaming and other network applications in every room simultaneously right away".  The asterisks did not link to further text.  Text on the "Specifications" tab stated "Compliant with IEEE 1901 with data transfer rate of up to 500 Mbps data rate*".  The asterisk linked to text at the foot of the ad that stated "* The theoretical maximum channel data transfer rate is derived from IEEE 1901 specifications. Actual data transfer rate will vary from network environment including: distance, network traffic, noise on electrical wires, quality of electrical installation and other adverse conditions".  Text beneath the sub-heading "Hardware Specifications" stated "Ethernet interface: One 10/100 Mbps RJ-45 connector with auto MDI/MDIX support".

Issue

1. Two complainants, who understood that the Ethernet port of the advertised product allowed a maximum transfer rate of 100Mbps, challenged whether the claims that the advertised product could achieve transfer speeds of 500Mbps were misleading and could be substantiated.

2. The complainants also challenged whether the claims that the advertised product "improves up to 60% performance for stable HD media streaming compared with 200 Mbps powerline technology" were misleading.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

Response

1. ZyXEL Communications Corp said the ad made clear that the quoted speed related to the theoretical data transfer rate.  They said the quoted data transfer rate related to the combined bi-directional rate and that environmental interference in the home would affect that figure.

2. ZyXEL said the claim "improves up to 60% performance" related to the average improvement in the stability of the network connection between the advertised product and the 200 Mbps version of the Powerline product that they supplied, when subjected to attenuation of between 60 db and 90 db.  

Assessment

1. Upheld

The ASA noted the advertised product was identified as a "500Mbps Mini Powerline Ethernet Adaptor" and that further text stated "data transfer rate of up to 500 Mbps data rate".  The second claim was linked to text that made clear that the data transfer rate was the theoretical data transfer rate and that the actual data transfer rate would vary depending on environmental factors.  In that context, we considered consumers would understand the ad to mean that they could achieve speeds of up to 500 Mbps, depending on environmental factors within their home.  However, we understood that the speed of the data transfer would be limited to 100 Mbps due to the ethernet port used in the advertised product.  Because we had not seen robust documentary evidence to demonstrate that the advertised product could achieve transfer speeds of 500 Mbps, we considered the claims had not been substantiated and therefore breached the Code.

On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).

2. Upheld

ZyXEL intended the claim to relate to the average improvement in the stability of the network connection between the advertised product and the 200 Mbps version of the Powerline product that ZyXEL supplied, when subjected to attenuation of between 60 db and 90 db.  However, we considered consumers were unlikely to interpret the claim in that way; rather we considered the precise meaning of the claim was unclear to consumers.  We understood that both complainants had interpreted the claim to mean that the advertised product could achieve a data transfer rate that was 60% higher than the 200 Mbps version of the Powerline product and considered that to be a reasonable interpretation of the claim.  

Because the meaning of the claim was unclear to consumers and did not reflect the advertiser's intended claim, we considered the claim was likely to mislead.

On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising).

Action

The ad must not appear again in its current form.  We told ZyXEL Communications Corp to ensure that transfer speeds were accurate and capable of robust substantiation in future.  We also told them to ensure that claims were presented clearly and were not likely to mislead consumers.

How to comply with the rules

For advice and training on the Advertising Codes please visit the CAP website.

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