The Advertising Standards Authority (www.asa.org.uk) is the organisation responsible for dealing with complaints regarding certain types of advertising such as press advertisements. It was asked by BT and members of the public to look into an advertisement from Telewest Broadband (blueyonder) which made several comparisons about its 256 Kbps service to BT Broadband's 512 Kbps service.
The complaints were broadly regarding the comparison of BT's 512Kbps service with blueyonder's 256Kbps service, the suggestion that the modem was "free" (as it was just on loan) and that the description "faster broadband" was misleading due to the fact it was merely 256Kbps.
The ASA did rule against Telewest on a number of points which it felt weren't clear enough in the way footnotes were used, however it make two interesting and some might argue rather worrying statements.
Firstly, it said that comparing a 256Kbps service with a 512Kbps service was acceptable as they were both entry-level services. The advertisement compared savings over a year when using a lower speed service from Telewest against BT's higher speed service. Comparisons such as this would mislead consumers who are not aware of the differences in broadband services.
What is however more worrying is the ASA's reference to Ofcom's definition of 'broadband': "Ofcom defined broadband services as those that were always on, allowed simultaneous use of voice and data services and offered faster download speeds than dial-up services; they said services with download speeds of 128kbps and above were included by Ofcom in its monitoring of broadband take up."
Comparing dual channel ISDN speeds to broadband is highly misleading and whilst it's something we would expect from an ISP marketing department, to see an "independent" body such as the ASA using this as a definition of broadband, even taking into account its origin, is very disappointing considering most "broadband" marked video content is listed as requiring 300 Kbps.
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