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ASA's Slappage of Telcos Continues in 2013

# Jan 16, 11:51 AM by cfteam

2012 was not a good year for accurate advertisements by the UK’s main telecoms companies. The Advertising Standards Authority adjudicated on many complaints made against the main players, with too many advertisements ruled as being in breach of the Codes of Practice. Unfortunately, although only 2 weeks into 2013 the trend continues.

Virgin Media were the subject of 12 rulings in 2012 of which 10 complaints were fully upheld and a further complaint partially upheld. A number of other cases were informally resolved. Most complaints had related to broadband and TV systems.

Virgin Media’s broadband escaped criticism in this January’s decision. There had been complaints that the advertised up to broadband speeds could not be achieved due to traffic management systems. The standards however require that at least 10% of users can get the advertised up to speed. Both Virgin Media and Ofcom’s data showed that a vast majority of users on average received those speeds. Only a very small proportion of customers subject to traffic management, which even if active still allowed browsing and steaming, albeit that downloading may be slower. The ASA concluded that Virgin Media’s traffic management policy was not likely to affect a consumer’s decision to purchase broadband.

BT attracted less attention in 2012 with only 4 formally resolved complaints of which only one was fully upheld regarding it’s Infinity Broadband, and a partially upheld complaint over substantiation of WiFi reliability from the Home Hub. There are further informally resolved cases.

Unfortunately for BT, 2013 hasn’t started well, with 2 complaint decisions already upheld against them. The online broadband availability checker dates, particularly for Infinity Services were found to be subject to slippage, often by a number of months. In many cases dates were provisional. The ASA ruled dates should only be shown when Openreach had plans scheduled for work in the area. This could of course have implications for similar systems such as Virgin Media’s broadband speed doubling programmes. A second decision rejected BT’s claim that it’s broadband was free for the first 6 months of a contract, as customers would in fact need to pay for a phone line rental.

Sky crossed swords with the ASA on four formal occasions last year with 3 of the complaints upheld, in addition to the many informal resolutions. Issues related to the availability of Anytime+, the requirement for a landline phone to subscribe to some TV services, and the use of “instant” to describe the availability of streamed TV services when in fact there may be a short delay before viewing could start, especially with slower speed broadband.

In 2013, Sky have had one complaint against them rejected, regarding the content available on up to 64 HD channels. The complaint was that content was not always native HD, but often SD that had been upscaled to HD before broadcast. The ASA considered that the European Broadcast Union had set standards for the broadcast of HD and that as the contend of these channels had been upgraded to meet those standards, Sky’s claims were justified.

The ASA have also criticised Talk Talk’s in 2013. Their claim of a “free” You View box worth £299 back in October last year placed inappropriate worth to the box, when it had not in fact been marketed at that price for more than a few days before the offer.

Cable Forum can only hope that the marketing gurus at our Telecoms companies will have been reading their Codes Of Practice over the holiday period and will attract less attention over the coming months.

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