The website www.bt.com offered an 'availability checker,' which users could search, based on their landline phone number or address, in order to find out which broadband services were currently available to them.
Based on searching by their landline telephone number, one complainant was presented with a table which stated "Great News! You can get superfast fibre optic BT Infinity … 23Mb-33Mb Download speed range".
The complainant challenged whether the download speed claims were misleading and could be substantiated.
British Telecommunications plc (BT) said the speed range was achievable by consumers and that was supported by an Ofcom broadband performance report.
BT said that they were unable to provide detailed analysis of non-BT customers' lines because that was dealt with by Openreach and that due to their organisational structure, they did not have access to data held by Openreach.
Openreach confirmed that they were a functionally separate organisation to BT's consumer facing divisions and that they provided wholesale services to their communications providers and that included information services such as line speed estimates.
Openreach explained that to estimate line speeds, they carried out detailed and large scale statistical analysis of possible speeds and the quoted values seen by the complainant were typical of what could be achieved by the vast majority of superfast broadband lines. They said the speed estimate ranged from the 80th to 20th percentile for similar phone lines, therefore, 80% of end-users could achieve the quoted speeds. They said they had checked the complainant's line and confirmed that it lay outside the statistical range, and due to a variety of reasons, the complainant would be unable to achieve the quoted speeds.
The ASA understood that the Ofcom report related to consumers in general. We also understood that speeds could be checked via BT's 'availability checker' by a specific phone number or by house number and post code and therefore considered that consumers would expect that any resulting download speed claims would be accurate for their address. We considered that the download speeds quoted on the BT website would be a material consideration for consumers when deciding whether or not to take up BT's superfast fibre optic BT Infinity product.
Because the website included a download claim related to a specific address which was not available to that consumer, we concluded the ad was misleading.
The claim breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising), 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation), 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. and 3.10 3.10 Qualifications must be presented clearly.
CAP has published a Help Note on Claims that Require Qualification. (Qualification) and 3.11 3.11 Marketing communications must not mislead consumers by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product. (Exaggeration).
The claim must not appear again in its current form. We told BT to ensure their availability checker provided accurate information.