A BT campaign has been banned for misleading customers about the speed of its Infinity broadband service, a watchdog said.
The BT press, TV and internet ads in August and September last year variously promised "unbeatable" speeds, "three times faster fibre optic broadband" and "four times faster broadband" for activities including uploading photos and videos to Facebook, downloading albums and streaming HD movies.
Virgin Media and three other complainants challenged whether the "unbeatable" claims and promises of faster broadband could be substantiated, and claimed that the top speeds were only available with certain packages.
Defending the campaign, BT said Virgin appeared to believe that the ad was claiming that Infinity was three times faster for all the activities listed in the ad, but they did not believe consumers would interpret it in the same way.
They said they had been careful not to state that Infinity was three times faster for uploading, downloading or streaming, and instead listed those activities in the context of how consumers could use three times faster speeds to 'Do more online with three times faster fibre optic broadband ... and transform your world online with BT Infinity ...'
BT said the May 2011 Ofcom report showed Infinity had an average download speed of 33.8 Mbps and an average upload speed of 8.8 Mbps compared with the national average of 6.8 Mbps for download speed and between 0.4 and 1.6 for upload speed, and therefore considered that the claim 'Four times faster broadband was true and not misleading.
However the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said it had not seen evidence that BT's download speeds were unbeatable, and concluded that the claims in the ads had not been substantiated and were misleading.
And it added: "We noted that the claim 'Do more online with three times faster fibre optic broadband' was immediately followed by text that discussed uploading and downloading activities. We considered that that implied BT's fibre optic broadband was three times faster for those activities, and that consumers were likely to read the claim as referring to the activities listed in the ad.
"We therefore considered the claim had not been substantiated and concluded it was misleading."
The watchdog ruled that the ads must not appear again in their current form.
A BT spokesman said: "BT is disappointed that the ASA has made this judgment based on a somewhat pedantic interpretation of the adverts. We don't feel that any customers will have been misled by the claims in these ads, which sought to highlight, on the basis of Ofcom speed reports, that Infinity offers download speeds three times as fast as the UK average and offers upload speed which are equal to anything offered by any other internet service provider.
"Upload speeds are indeed unbeatable with Infinity option 2, but we did not make it clear enough that this would not be the case for Infinity option 1. In any event, we will abide by the ASA's ruling, unlike Virgin Media, which continues to use the claim that they offer the UK's fastest broadband despite two published ASA rulings saying they should not make this claim."