BT advert banned over broadband claims

An ad in BT's long-running "Adam and Jane" campaign was banned for misleading customers over the speed of the company's broadband, a watchdog announced today.

The instalment in the ongoing saga showed Adam being shown around a property by an estate agent as he talked to Jane on his mobile, who was viewing the house online from her home computer.

It showed the estate agent waiting for a webpage to load, while Jane loaded the website instantly and quickly looked at a series of images.

The estate agent apologised to Adam, saying: "Six o'clock. Half the world's online," before a voice-over added: "BT is rolling out up to 20 meg speeds to give you a consistently faster broadband throughout the day even at peak times."

Radio and press ads carried a similar message.

The ad drew 17 complaints from the public and competitors Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin, among them that the 20Mb (megabits per second) claim was misleading and could not be substantiated.

Others believed surfing a typical website would not be any faster with a 20Mb service than it would with the original 8Mb service, while three people said the speed at which Jane navigated various web pages was faster than anyone could achieve at any connection speed.

BT told the ASA that its new service, which was being rolled out when the ad screened, was faster than the old one, but that the sequence shown in the ad was not intended to be an actual comparison.

The ASA said: "Because we had not seen sufficient evidence to support the claim that BT's new broadband service was consistently faster than its existing 8Mb service even at peak times, we concluded that the ad was likely to mislead."

It said viewers could expect the internet speed demonstrated by Jane to be available to them, adding that this was not the case.

It concluded: "We noted BT's new service was available to fewer than half of all households and the roll-out, increasing that figure to 75%, was anticipated to take around two years.

"We noted that a significant proportion of the population could not get the service at the time the ad appeared and therefore considered the ad should have made that clear. Because it did not, we concluded that it was likely to mislead."

It ruled that the ads must not appear again in their current form.

BT said in a statement: "We are disappointed by the ASA's adjudication. At the time the ads appeared, BT had just started rolling out a new up to 20Mb broadband service across the country and we wanted to highlight the higher speeds available in newly enabled exchange areas offering customers consistently faster web browsing in comparison to BT's up to 8Mb service.

"There was certainly no intention to mislead, the images used were representative of the differences and our substantiation for the claims made in the advertising includes independent data from the leading global authority on broadband service delivery, Epitiro, and an expert statistician."