The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned “misleading” advertisements from BT and O2, following complaints from rival companies and members of the public.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the UK’s independent advertising regulator. The ASA makes sure ads across UK media stick to the advertising rules (the Advertising Codes).
The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) is the sister organisation of the ASA and is responsible for writing the Advertising Codes. The ASA and CAP are committed to regulating in a way that is transparent, proportionate, targeted, evidence-based, consistent and accountable.
BT Wi-Fi Coverage
BT was ordered not to run an ad making claims about the Wi-Fi coverage provided by its home broadband products. The announcements stated that BT would guarantee guaranteed coverage in all rooms through the use of disc repeaters, and that the provider offers a £ 20 discount on the customer’s next invoice if this is not achieved.
Virgin Media and Vodafone, along with 11 members of the public, questioned these claims, while 3 others actually said the announcement did not make clear that the discs should be plugged into the electrical grid.
BT cited research showing that in 96 percent of cases, customers could get full coverage with one additional disc, and in another four percent of cases, full coverage could be achieved with two discs. Of 1,000 properties tested, only one required a payment.
BT also added that it’s pretty obvious that equipment which requires electricity to work “needs electricity to work.”.
However, the ASA confirmed this complaint as well.
We told [BT] not to claim that they guaranteed Wi-Fi in every room unless they held adequate evidence to support the claims. We also told them not to use visuals that suggested the Wi-Fi discs did not need to be plugged into a socket.”
A BT spokesperson commented:
“We guarantee that our Complete Wi-Fi customers will get Wi-Fi in every room. Unlike other providers we send our customers a new Smart Hub 2 and Wi-Fi Disc which gets a strong wi-fi signal to every room for the majority of customers across the UK.
“We also go the extra mile for customers living in the biggest homes and we will happily send more Wi-Fi Discs and arrange for an engineer to visit if needed – we will always help our customers to get wi-fi to every room. The ASA wants us to explain more clearly that we’ll also send customers £20 if they’re still not happy and we’ve changed our ads to make that more clear.”
O2 Refresh Custom Plans
Last year, O2 ran a campaign on its website that its custom “Upgrade” plans would not charge customers for a phone they had already paid for during the minimum term of their contract.
O2 Refresh separates the phone and airtime items from a fee so that subscribers only pay for the latter once the initial contract period has expired.
The first advert on O2’s website warned that “other networks charge you for a phone you already own … with a custom plan from O2, we won’t.” The promotion also included an interactive “overpayment estimator,” which included an illustrative example output that stated, “Ouch! … If you’re not on O2, you could have overpaid your network provider by …”
The second advert, a YouTube video, showed different cars unable to exit a car park and appearing frustrated. The on-screen text stated, “Would you keep paying for something you’ve already paid for” and later repeated another familiar claim: “other networks charge you for a phone you already own” (this reflects how O2’s Refresh plans won’t charge you extra for the bundled handset once your contract ends).
Three objected, arguing that the calculator did not reflect actual costs and made it unclear what was being compared. Meanwhile, Virgin Media said the campaigns implied that other operators were not offering personalized plans when, in fact, both Virgin and Sky did at the time.
O2 argued that the comparison was similar, that the informed average customer was able to understand the costs, and reiterated that the calculations offered were illustrative. He also contested that the announcement implied that “Update” was the only personalized plan offer on the market.
The ASA disagreed, saying the announcements made it unclear that the calculator would take the costs of an ongoing packaged contract and compare them to a disaggregated contract.
“We told (O2) to make sure that their advertising did not suggest that they were the only supplier offering disaggregated contracts or that they did not offer grouped contracts,” ASA said.
“We also told them not to compare the costs of bundled contracts with non-bundled contracts unless they made clear the nature of that comparison. We also told them not to make comparative statements based on speculative figures and not to imply that other networks did not offer disaggregated plans. “