The Advertising Standards Authority (www.asa.org.uk) has this morning released an adjudication criticising Wanadoo for its advertising claims promoting "up to 8 Meg" broadband services. This ruling will have a significant impact on the entire broadband service industry in regard to claims of higher speed services.
A number of complaints were made to the ASA by other ISPs and the public about Wanadoo TV and press advertising which began in October 2005 that used the phrase "Up to 8 Meg [..] Broadband". BT, Tiscali and Bulldog's advertising agency expressed concerns that the advertisements were misleading as they implied that speeds up to 8 Mbps would be available to majority of the audience. Two members of the public also complained specifically about the lack of the high speed service available in their area.
Although Wanadoo said that they were rolling out 8 Mbps broadband services throughout the country from October 2005 beginning with 154 exchanges (11.5% of the population), a design issue caused delays in getting these all live and by the end of November 113 exchanges (8.5% of the population) were already live. The Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC) had cleared the "up to 8 Meg" claim on the basis of the 11.5% figure and on the basis of 100% coverage by summer 2006. Of those within the coverage area, Wanadoo claimed 55% would be able to receive "up to 8 Meg" services, and the ASA noted when the advertising was launched, less than 5% of the population would be able to subscribe to an 8 Mbps broadband service from Wanadoo. The ASA adjudication upheld the complaint in this respect, as it did not feel the uses of "up to" and "subject to availability" were enough to explain this. The ASA also upheld complaints with respect to the lack of explanation that the 8 Mbps speed reference applied to downloads only (not uploads) as well as lack of clarity on the relationship between the Wireless and Talk package and their broadband service. The ASA rejected a complaint about the size of text on TV advertising which was within the appropriate broadcast guidelines.
This adjudication will be a setback for Wanadoo, but its implications are far more wide reaching within the entire industry. Users in populated areas will always be the first to receive faster services, a market which has been identified as lucrative by a number of providers. This ruling however seeks to ensure that advertising of broadband services reflects better the true availability of services across the country.
The full adjudication can be viewed here.
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