A website for Vodafone, www.vodafone.co.uk, seen on 15 November 2018, featured a page that detailed their “Vodafone Gigafast” broadband service. Text stated, "Blast off at an average of 900Mbps …". Further text stated, “Enjoy lightning-fast internet speeds with Vodafone Gigafast Broadband”. Smaller text underneath stated, "We offer a range of average speeds from 100Mbps to 900Mbps …". Further down the page were the claims “Great broadband doesn’t have to cost the earth - enjoy Vodafone Gigafast Broadband speeds for as little as £23 a month” and “[d]ownloading a 100GB game usually takes hours … with Vodafone Gigafast Broadband you can become a legend in minutes”.
Virgin Media Ltd challenged whether the claim “Gigafast Broadband” misleadingly implied that the entire service was capable of delivering speeds of 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps).
Vodafone Ltd said that they used a ‘fibre to the home’ infrastructure which was capable of delivering speeds to the router at 1Gbps. They said the name ‘Vodafone Gigafast’ was trademarked and that the ad contained a prominent statement that disclaimed the claim made in the service name – namely that the speeds available under the Gigafast line ranged from 100Mbps to 900Mbps, on average. They also referred to two competitors, one of whom had used the term ‘Gigafast’ to refer to their 1Gbps package and another of whom had claimed speed of 1Gbps.
The ASA considered that many consumers would likely understand the prefix ‘Giga’ to be a hyperbolic description of speed, and would therefore generally understand ‘Gigafast’ internet was very fast broadband. However, we considered that a significant proportion of consumers would have sufficient knowledge of broadband terminology to understand Gigafast Broadband as a reference to a service capable of providing speeds of 1 Gbps (1000Mbps).
Vodafone Gigafast referred to a range of packages of which one was capable of achieving 1Gbps, with an average speed of 900Mbps. The product page featured the claim “Enjoy lightning-fast internet speeds with Vodafone Gigafast Broadband” which was qualified with the statement “… average speeds from 100Mbps to 900Mbps”. We considered that because it was clear to all consumers that Vodafone Gigafast referred to a range of packages, one of which was capable of achieving 1Gbps, the claim was unlikely to mislead consumers.
However, another statement on the same page read “Great broadband doesn’t have to cost the earth - enjoy Vodafone Gigafast Broadband speeds for as little as £23 a month”. Throughout the page the price claim “from £23”, and variations thereof, was stated. We considered that the repetition of the £23 claim, unmoored from reference to a specific package, created the impression that a service that could achieve speeds of 1Gbps was available for £23, when in fact only the average 100Mbps package could be purchased for £23, while the average 900Mbps package cost £48 a month. We also considered that the later parts of the page did not make it sufficiently clear that the “from £23” claim did not refer to the 900Mbps package, but to the slower 100Mbps service.
Although we considered that the website made clear that Vodafone Gigafast referred to a range of packages which were not all capable of providing 1Gbps, because it implied that consumers could get a service that offered speeds of 1Gbps for £23 per month, when that was not the case, we concluded that it was likely to mislead.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify.
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 web page must not continue to appear in the form complained of. We told Vodafone Ltd not to imply that a package capable of achieving 1Gbps was available for £23 a month.