A TV ad, radio ad and the website for TalkTalk, seen and heard on 16 October 2018:
a. The TV ad featured a voice-over which stated, “For everyone who wants a reliable connection right throughout the home, TalkTalk Unlimited Fibre now comes with our all new Wi-Fi hub so you won’t get a better Wi-Fi signal from any of the other big providers.”
b. The radio ad featured the claim, “Our totally unlimited Fibre comes with our powerful Wi-Fi hub, giving you a Wi-Fi signal that can’t be beaten by any of the other big providers.”c. The TalkTalk website featured the claim “Our new WiFi Hub. You won’t get a better Wi-Fi signal from any of the other big providers”.
IssueBritish Telecommunications plc challenged whether the claims “You won’t get a better Wi-Fi signal from any of the other big providers” and “a Wi-Fi signal that can’t be beaten by any of the other big providers” were misleading and could be substantiated.
TalkTalk Telecom Ltd t/a TalkTalk believed that consumers would understand the claims to refer to the router’s ability to provide their connected devices with a practical Wi-Fi signal across their home. They did not believe consumers would understand the claim to be solely based on how far a signal reached, as that would dismiss how practical the signal was at such a range.
TalkTalk referred to their published report on their Wi-Fi testing. It said the testing was conducted by an independent telecommunications consultation company and carried out in a controlled environment. The tests were carried out against the routers from the major broadband providers in the UK market, on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies. The test was conducted in a detached test house in a quiet rural location, with trees to one side of the house and open arable land to the other side. There were no immediate neighbours, so the test house suffered no Wi-Fi interference, and that was measured before and during each test. Each router was located in the same spot on a table in the study on the ground floor. The three test devices were then placed in six locations, chosen to represent varying degrees of difficulty connecting to the router, and the Wi-Fi signal was tested for each of the routers.
TalkTalk said in order to establish a Wi-Fi performance baseline, all testing was done in a ‘clean’ environment, free from Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, microwave oven and other interference. By testing in a clean environment it was possible to establish the relative performance of one router to another in a manner that was repeatable. TalkTalk said the results showed that the TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub offered a signal that could not be beaten by any of the other big broadband providers. They said the performance of their hub and BT’s hub was very similar, and was significantly better than the performance of the Virgin, Sky, Plusnet and Vodafone routers. While there was a small advantage to the BT Smart Hub over the TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub in a small number of tests, they believed the advantage was so small that a consumer would not be able to tell the difference without access to specialist test equipment. They said a comparison of the results at all distances across both Wi-Fi bands with all three device types demonstrated that the TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub had a small advantage on average over the BT Smart Hub.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand from the claims “You won’t get a better Wi-Fi signal from any of the other big providers” and “giving you a Wi-Fi signal that can’t be beaten by any of the big other providers” in ads (a) to (c) that their Wi-Fi hub performed as well as the other major broadband providers.
We considered consumers would understand the claims to mean that TalkTalk’s Wi-Fi hub provided as strong a signal as any other big provider; they would understand that – all other factors being equal – at the furthest point from the router where devices could be used for practical purposes, devices would achieve a Wi-Fi speed with TalkTalk that could not be beaten by the other major broadband providers. We considered they would understand the claim to relate specifically to the abilities of the hubs as opposed to the overall speed they would receive on their devices from their broadband package.
We sought advice from Ofcom regarding the evidence submitted by TalkTalk. The testing was only carried out in one test house with no accompanying tests in real consumer homes. We considered that it was in principle acceptable to only conduct tests in test houses as they could create a set of standardised, reproducible conditions. However, they needed to demonstrate that the environment was typical of normal use and conditions, for instance by reflecting the level of interference in real consumer homes. In this case, however, only co-channel interference from one other Wi-Fi network was tested for, while TalkTalk had not tested for any forms of non-Wi-Fi interference that would be present in consumers’ homes. We therefore considered that the tests were insufficient to reflect the interference that typically occurred in everyday homes. Furthermore, no recording of the levels of Wi-Fi interference at the time each router was tested had been provided, meaning that we were unable to verify that all the routers tested were subjected to consistent levels of interference.
We also noted that the routers were only positioned facing one direction, and were not rotating (for instance on turntables) when the Wi-Fi signal was being tested. Therefore, we could not be certain that the reported performance differences between the routers only occurred at the specific angle at which they had been placed. Because the evidence was insufficient to demonstrate that TalkTalk’s router’s provided as strong a signal as any other major provider, we concluded that the claims “You won’t get a better Wi-Fi signal from any of the other big providers” and “giving you a Wi-Fi signal that can’t be beaten by any of the big other providers” in ads (a) to (c) had not been substantiated, and were therefore misleading. Ad (a) and ad (b) breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Substantiation) and 3.33 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors). Ad (c) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.33 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told TalkTalk Telecom Ltd t/a TalkTalk to remove the claims “You won’t get a better Wi-Fi signal from any of the other big providers” and “giving you a Wi-Fi signal that can’t be beaten by any of the big other providers”, and not to make comparative claims about their router in future based on inadequate testing.