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ASA tells BT off over Infinity checker results
Wednesday 07 May 2014 10:30:34 by Andrew Ferguson

The conclusion is simple the ASA this week has "told BT to ensure their availability checker provided accurate information." The difficult part is knowing what is an accurate speed, and how accurate can you actually be until someone has actually got a live service running at a property.

So why has the ASA come down like a tonne of bricks on BT over its availability checker, well one simple complaint where someone claimed that the download speeds for their line were misleading and whether they could be substantiated. BT Retail made a bit of a mistake in its response if the adjuration is an accurate transcription of the communications in it appears trying to rely on the Ofcom broadband performance report, which is based on a far too small sample size to tell anything about an individuals performance. Openreach put on a better show, explaining that they provide an estimate where they believe 80% will get the quoted speed and that the results are based on statistical analysis.

"The ASA understood that the Ofcom report related to consumers in general. We also understood that speeds could be checked via BT's 'availability checker' by a specific phone number or by house number and post code and therefore considered that consumers would expect that any resulting download speed claims would be accurate for their address. We considered that the download speeds quoted on the BT website would be a material consideration for consumers when deciding whether or not to take up BT's superfast fibre optic BT Infinity product.

Because the website included a download claim related to a specific address which was not available to that consumer, we concluded the ad was misleading.

The claim breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.9 and 3.10 (Qualification) and 3.11 (Exaggeration).

ASA Assessment which upheld the complaint

The level of information for the original complaint is Spartan, with no mention of what speeds the complainant can actually get. Anyone who has used the BT Wholesale checker will know it returns two ranges of results now, those for an error free line and a slower set reflecting the impact that line faults or in home wiring may have on the service. Crucially the BT Retail Infinity availability checker only shows the error free (clean) range. Therefore the solution for the many broadband retailers and to remain with Ofcom rules where a speed range has to be given at the point of sale would be to show both sets of speeds, or the minimum and maximum from the two ranges.

The full fibre advocates will celebrate this as another nail in the coffin for VDSL based fibre services, but while full fibre services provide fixed connection speeds, issues like end-users hardware, network protocol overheads and contention in the provider network mean that speeds will still not always hit the technical limit of the network.


Posted by mikejp over 2 years ago
A little like telling folk round here who have poor dial-up they can have 4mb?
Posted by joe_pineapples over 2 years ago
There should be a minimum stated speed that falling below, entitles the consumer to opt out of their contract without penalty. I quizzed a BT 'chat' person about this and they went all around the houses but didn't/couldn't/wouldn't give me an answer.
Posted by CaptainW over 2 years ago
I tried to ask them what minimum my parents could get and they tried everything possible not to answer my questions also and gave up because they couldn't re-assure them via live chat. The website stated 60-80Mb but they wouldn't give a proper answer on what they'd class as not acceptable. I'd have taken the gamble but my parents just want assurance and decided against it.

I can't get fibre at our home due to issues with the cabinet.
Posted by fastman over 2 years ago
Captian w its not as easy as it seems as the checker is determined by distance from Cab to DP (the distance from DP to premise is unknown (most will be very short but some in more rural areas coudl be muich greater -- its also could have an impact if you self install and do not have the taps done on home wiring - which is why the BTW checker offera clean/ non clean view

i assume you issue is you are too far from it

Posted by gerarda over 2 years ago
The ASA are probably losing patience with BT - this is the 17th complaint against them that has been upheld at least in part.
Posted by Pendlemac over 2 years ago
Major fail by the ASA there.

They talk about download speed but the BT checker specifically states it shows line rate aka CONNECTION speed. Also the BT page states clearly that the download speed you will get WILL be lower than the line rate due to the nature of the internet.
Posted by TNT555 over 2 years ago
Doesn't help that crosstalk hits VDSL2 hard. I know someone who knows his neighbours well, 3 of them have FTTC on the same pole. If only 1 line's modem is on they get the full 80Mbps-20Mbps, 2 lines both get 60Mbps-19.5Mbps, all 3 on 40Mbps-16Mbps.

I dunno why they don't concede that the checker is useless especially if they have to put such a massive range on the figures, or why they didn't have Vectoring built into the plan from the get go, as it would be needed for FTTC to have a future to be a decent stop gap for FTTP.
Posted by joe_pineapples over 2 years ago

That's an eye opener.
Posted by John_Gray over 2 years ago
"the ASA [has] come down like a tonne of bricks"

I never thought I'd ever see anything like that written about one of the most toothless consumer 'tigers' in the land! I would have expected "an ounce of feathers"...
Posted by cen8wfw over 2 years ago
About time! I signed my mum up for Fibre even though the line check at BT wholesale stated min speed 16mb. (Plus net told me there line checks said minimum 28mb!)

The speed she gets is 5.5mb! Plusnet have been good and given me a discount as this speed is still better than the 1.2mb she got via ADSL. Pretty poor though. Shows just how rubbish Fibre can be. Come on BT start giving better estimates of line speed up front!
Posted by madkingsoup over 2 years ago
Until the ASA is allowed to levy massive fines on companies for misleading advertising, nobody really cares and it's just a waste of everybody's time.
Posted by cick4internet over 2 years ago
I guess if BT are trying to pretend a VDSL line is a fiber optic line then they will have these sort of problems in describing their product.
Posted by chrysalis over 2 years ago
I wish I recorded the conversation I had with an openreach engineer who basically told me BTw's estimate is meaningless, he was unwilling to even attempt to bring line back up to it. Since BT are not going to fix this by improving the local loop we can expect reductions in the estimate's instead.
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