Skip Navigation

BT 'Instant Internet' fibre broadband advert deemed misleading
Wednesday 04 August 2010 14:26:35 by John Hunt

The ASA have slapped BT's wrists for a national press advert they put out to advertise the new fibre based BT Infinity range of products. Large text in the middle of the advert stated "BT Infinity The Birth of the instant internet" and was accompanied by other text that invited users to download and upload files instantly. Four complaints were received about the use of the term "instantly" which they believed to be misleading. Consumers would of course have to wait for things to download or upload which could in some cases be only a matter of seconds but may turn out to be quite a bit longer.

In a palpable defence, BT claimed that consumers would know that the word "instant" didn't actually mean instantly, particularly in the context of broadband and the Internet. It's not obvious why BT expect their potential customers to know the ins and outs of their new products, particularly when adverts like this hype them beyond their actual abilities, but perhaps they are right in that most people expect adverts to be misleading.

The ASA considered that consumers would understand the claims "Upload and share high quality photos and videos instantly", "Download your favourite music instantly", "Enjoy multiple websites and online content instantly" and "Stream HD movies and TV shows instantly", as well as "The birth of the instant internet", to mean that BTs fibre optic broadband could deliver the listed activities straightaway, or with no noticeable delay.

We noted that BT had provided a list of the times they believed it would take to complete the activities stated in the ad, using their fibre optic broadband. However, we also noted that we had not seen evidence that substantiated those times, or that showed what speeds could be achieved by customers using BTs fibre optic broadband, and that those speeds would be achievable by customers at times of high user demand and with non-optimal computer set-ups.

We noted the three customer profiles and two videos submitted by BT, however, we did not consider that profiles and testimonials alone were sufficient to substantiate claims relating to the speed of a broadband service. Because we had not seen evidence to support the claims made in the ad, we concluded that it was misleading.

ASA Assessment of BT advert


Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
Although the ASA messed up with "unlimited" it's good to see that "instant" has rung the right alarm bells for once.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
Why did they even try to get that one past? I mean... instant? Saying that... you can get "Instant Loans" within an hour :)
Posted by mhc over 6 years ago

Maybe the ASA should start looking around at other advertisements using "Instant". BT has used the phrase in the same context as other have done in the past - Birds Instant Custard for example, which takes 5 to 10 minutes.

Posted by TaRkADaHl over 6 years ago
I understand why they upheld this as 'misleading' and all... but come on. Its an advertisment, as far as 'misleading' goes its pretty pathetic.

The 'up-to' debate is a much bigger/more interesting one.

Its an advertisment, they all bend the truth in some way.

What about O2's stupid broadband niggles noggles boggles advert.... unlimited with a 10Gb limit thats not mentioned. That is far more misleading.
Posted by TaRkADaHl over 6 years ago
I think the term 'americanisation' is appropriate.... if something isn't 100% as someone believes it, complain/sue everyone until you have enough money to be happy.

This country really is going down the crapper :/
Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
The key determinant of the performance of broadband is speed, currently mostly downstream. If we permit "instant", then like "unlimited", we end up with a binary word (it's true or it's not) being muddied with degrees e.g. "this one is more unlimited", "this one is more instant".
Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
" but perhaps they are right in that most people expect adverts to be misleading."

maybe, but they are written by and for people that don't understand the product.
Posted by TaRkADaHl over 6 years ago
"It's not obvious why BT expect their potential customers to know the ins and outs of their new products". They ain't gonna sue them if they don't know the difference between an MSAN and a DSLAM...

But they expect people to have the slightest amount of common sense, which seems generally to be expecting to much with the majority of the British puclic nowadays.
Posted by john (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
@herdwick- which just makes BT's reasoning laughable!

Perhaps the ASA should issue all advertisers a dictionary. Saying that, I'm sure some adverts make it out knowing that they might get complaints and the ASA will ban them from future use, but by that point, they've already served their purpose. And after that, any press is good press, no?
Posted by NetGuy over 6 years ago
Far from convinced the "up to" debate has much force behind it. "up to" seems perfectly clear to me, most ISPs give an estimate, the variables are too many and varied and on a case-by-case basis so seems reasonable to cover their back as they would be daft to quote half the speed and say "or more"!
Posted by TaRkADaHl over 6 years ago
And 'up to' will have to remain until fixed speed fibre services can be rolled out and they can 'guarantee' sync rates and say that throughput is traffic managed...

But I can guarantee that there are far more than four complaints regarding the use of 'up to' as there has been for the use of 'instant'.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
up to will always remain, because they will always use it to cover congestion. Virgin Cable doesn't need an "up to" its cable but its still there to cover congestion
Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
@john - spot on.
Posted by tommy45 over 6 years ago
This ad i didn't see, but earlier bt broadband ads i would say could be misleading, cause the harp on about their constant high speeds ect ,when really they are referring to the home hub,that should of been stopped, but as usual they get away with miss selling
Posted by tommy45 over 6 years ago
oh, and they don't mention the fact that 2 of the 3 total broadband products are capped and all are shaped do they ?
Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
"but perhaps they are right in that most people expect adverts to be misleading." (from the article, not the ASA) - if that's true, and I think in some particular industries, it is, telephony and comms being one of them, it calls into question the existence of the ASA as an effective or even useful body. The solution to this issue is simply to force the company concerned to take out adverts with a retraction and apology at least equal in size and distribution to the false claims.
Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
@john - the whole advertising game is by and for idiots, and probably regulated by idiots, so all their reasoning tends to be laughable !

@GMAN99 the ASA require fixed speed services to be prefixed "up to", there are extra requirements for rate adaptive services. They basically don't get the difference between connection link speed and data throughput.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
Fair do's so it will be "up to" forever, which I think is fine because its a given there will be slow down at some point some times whether its local, within your ISP's network or the destination your communicating with.
Posted by radiomarko over 6 years ago
A small victory against the weasels at BT... and their ad agency.
Posted by seb (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
@john - "palpable defence" is a bit harsh! :)
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
I said in conversation on here elsewhere some advertising for BT infinity would get complaints...... Oh look! Well done to the ASA for listening to the complaints and lying adverts.
Posted by Blognorton over 6 years ago
The trouble with accepting that advertisers always lie and not doing anything about it is that you end up believing nothing at all.

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Even if they are a bunch of weak kneed idiots, the ASA is right to stamp on the toes of the complacent liars that run BT.
Posted by awoodland over 6 years ago
ASA stamping on it (even if it is misleading) doesn't sound like freedom to me...
Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
Without something like the ASA, we'd still have chemists dispensing cure-alls which claim to cure any known illness with a small pill every day.
Posted by whatever2 over 6 years ago
@ TaRkADaHl

There is no term 'americanisation' in the english language. The Americans have a word, americaniZation though in their dictionaries. Ironic considering the meaning.
Posted by MrTAToad2 over 6 years ago
At last they got something correct...
Posted by cyberdoyle over 6 years ago
ASA is gutless. BT has got away with false information for too long. Glad this time they appear to be doing something, but as an earlier commenter said - there is no such thing as bad publicity.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
All broadband suppliers have though and yes they are right to stop this one straight off. Its bad enough with "up to" and unlimited without adding "instant" to the pile
Posted by chrysalis over 6 years ago
it should have been upheld and glad it has. If you download a movie, even on FTTC it will be far from instant. Of course BT also traffic shape, so some things on their FTTC product may be slower than other providers who only use ADSL.
Posted by marivah over 6 years ago
Most advertising is misleading,eg Cars that climb up walls! Adverts are the work of exec. on ego trips to outdo one another, and do not tell the reader/viewer anything useful about the product!
Posted by Mr_Fluffy over 6 years ago
The BT ad that gets me is the one where a bloke is trying to show his pals something using his internet connection and it takes forever until one of the pals whips them off to his BT connection where everything works like greased lightning - likely or what?
Posted by TaRkADaHl over 6 years ago
@Mr_Fluffy - Which do you mean:

Likely that it works quickly

Or likely that the BT user has friends ;)
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
Hmmm in that advert concerned are they not trying to watch some streaming video? Dont BT throttle streaming video? (depending on streaming service of course).

I personally like the estate agent advert and how the broadband the estate agent is using is working slower but the guys girlfriend connection is still working fine. They then blabber on about how much better BT is at peak times... If thats not funny enough.... How they even know the estate agent in somebody elses house isnt connected via a BT product i guess involved a crystal ball ;)
Posted by Mr_Fluffy over 6 years ago
@ TaRkADaHl I was being sarcastic - my son's BT MaxDSL connection in the University town of Aberystwyth plummets to near dial up rates during peak times, in spite of him being less than 1km from the exchange and having extremely good stats
Posted by Mr_Fluffy over 6 years ago
He says that hope is on the horizon because the University is planning to bypass BT by setting up a wireless network connected to the microwave link that the Uni uses to connect with Janet.
Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
The BT ad says "you shouldn't need to make excuses for your broadband". No, perhaps we shouldn't. But we have to. Remind me whose network it is again...
Posted by New_Londoner over 6 years ago
I've heard a rumour that the ASA have subsequently upheld a complaint against Instant Whip.

They claimed that the name suggested that the dessert would be ready to eat straightaway, or with no noticeable delay. which was not the case, so require the name to be changed. They also noted that it was in fact whisked rather than whipped as part of the preparation.

The new "Fairly Quick Whisk" will be available in shops shortly.

Posted by New_Londoner over 6 years ago
Hot on the heels of teh ASA ruling, and post their attenmpts to sue Skype, Sky announced that they are suing BT on the grounds that their customers could easily confuse BT with BSkyB.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago

I read that when I was a teenager. It taught me all I needed to know about advertising :)
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
^^^ LOL quote"It soon becomes a tale of mystery and intrigue, in which many of the characters are not what they seem, and Mitch's loyalties and opinions change drastically over the course of the narrative."

Its about the various BT adverts and the "story" of the guy in them... One week push the internet, blabber how great it is and faster than others....... The next push the use of your home phone and state the internet isnt a good way to communicate LOL
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
Did Mitch also have an illegitimate child on the way also? LOL
You must be logged in to post comments. Click here to login.