ASA bans BT advert as misleading (not for the first time)

The ASA complaint against BT

Today (27/02/19) the  Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced that it has upheld a complaint against BT. The complaint was received from Virgin Media (the irony) regarding a national press advert and claims on the BT website seen 19 May 2018. The ASA listed the below on its website regarding the complaint:

“a. The press ad included the claim “UK’s most powerful Wi-Fi vs. major broadband providers” as a feature of the Infinity broadband package. The claim also appeared as a feature of the Unlimited Infinity package. The ad featured an image of the BT Smarthub.

b. The BT website featured the headline claim “BT Business Smart Hub. The UK’s most powerful business wi-fi signal vs. major broadband providers*”. Further text stated “*Better than all other major UK business broadband providers, giving you the strongest signal furthest from the hub. Tests prove it”.”

BT logo

 

Virgin challenged the claims saying that they were misleading and could not be substantiated.

The ASA response to the BT complaint

The details of the response, assessment and action are detailed  in the ASA Ruling on British Telecommunications plc t/a BT

In short, the ASA found that BT broke rules on  Misleading advertising, Substantiation, Exaggeration and Comparisons with identifiable competitors.

ASA action against BT

The ads must not appear again in their current forms. The ASA has instructed BT “… not to claim that their routers were “the UK’s most powerful” unless they could demonstrate that they could provide a stronger signal than other major providers when subjected to other forms of non-Wi-Fi interference, and unless they could provide recordings of the levels of all types of interference when each router was tested to demonstrate that each router was subjected to consistent levels of interference.”

BT has previous for breaching the ASA code

The ASA has received a number of complaints about BT’s advertising over the years. Most have been upheld resulting in BT not being allowed to show ads in the same format. They referred to a variety of adverts, website, emails, publications and TV. Various issues were raised and investigated, upheld and action was taken against BT 11 times from May 2014.

BT is not alone. Put in any other telecom provider and you will find similar. When I asked the ASA about BT’s track record a spokesperson said that it needed to take a proportional view. “BT produce thousands of ads a year across media in a highly competitive sector. In that context, a handful of upheld rulings points towards an advertiser that, by and large, plays by the rules. It would be different, say, if BT produced 20 ads a year and we found them to have broken the rules on several occasions. As a proportion of the number of ads they produce, which is a prolific amount, the number of issues to crop up is low.”

Does the ASA have any real powers?

The ASA investigates complaints and tells companies that ads cannot appear in the same form again. Is it just a slap on the wrist? The adverts have run so the companies don’t lose anything?

Another issue is the time it takes for the ASA to investigate. So many months have passed by the time the ASA has made its judgement that any consumers who took on a service or bought a product on the claims of an advert have already been stung.

ASA

The ASA says that it bans adverts that break the rules so they can’t appear again. It says that the company receives negative publicity/reputation damage when it  is at the wrong end of an ASA ruling. However, how many people look at ASA rulings on a regular basis? And how many of the investigations reach the media? A spokesperson for the ASA said  “An investigation and having an ad campaign banned costs the company involved time and money in responding to our queries and providing evidence to back up their claims. It can also cost a company money, in some instances a significant amount, if we ban an ad campaign that is planned to have a long run.”

The ASA claims that rulings can affect share prices. They say this on the back of conversations with companies  saying only that the companies would need to provide this evidence.

“The majority of advertisers work with us, are committed to responsible advertising and agree to follow our rulings. There are sanctions in place for those who are unwilling or unable to work with us. These include prohibiting an advertiser media space – we liaise with media space owners who won’t run their ads – removing paid search ads for the company, mandatory pre-vetting of ads and. ultimately referral of non-compliant advertisers to our legal backstop, Trading Standards who can and do have statutory powers. They can issue fines and prosecute offenders. In some instances this can involve advertisers being sentenced to prison.”

So in effect the real financial damage comes when and if Trading Standards gets involved or if the case hits shares which in essence can only happen if the case hits the media. With the cuts to Trading Standards budgets the likelihood of any local branch taking action against a company is remote.

What can consumers do?

Consumers should continue to report any issues they see with advertising to the ASA. Some issues do hit the media. Such as the Virgin Media story in 2018 (and the ASA refused to investigate that one!) and the Amazon story in 2018 where it told Amazon to  ditch ‘guaranteed next-day delivery’ claim which did stop an ongoing advert. many of the complaints investigated come from just one complaint received.

If you took out a service on the basis of a claim though you can try and get out of a contract with no penalty. Use the The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (amended 2014).

lap top on woman's knees phone in one hand

 

If you have another complaint about your telecom provider see All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers

Further help in complaining

book Logo cartoon cow at a laptop of book cover. How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

 

For advice, tips, consumer laws, information and template letters GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

Affected by O2 network downtime issues – your rights to redress

O2 coverage and network problems what you can do

On 6 December 2018 O2 had a problem with data services on its network. At the time of publishing this blog post it still has a problem. O2 says the coverage and network issues are due to a third party software failure and that mobile operators around the world could also be affected.

Your rights when you don’t get the coverage you are paying for

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015  you are entitled to services to be carried out with reasonable skill and care. It is irrelevant that the problem is caused by a third party problem. Your contract is with O2 and so therefore O2 is in breach of contract and you are entitled to redress.

You are entitled to a full refund of the cost of the time you are without use of your phone. You are also entitled to redress for any out-of-pocket expenses you incurred due to not being able to use anything on your phone. E.g. you incurred bank charges because you couldn’t transfer money or had to use a payphone. You can claim for consequential loss due to O2’s breach of contract.

How to complain to O2

Once the system is back up and running, calculate your losses. Write do not phone so you have a record of evidence. Outline the problems you had and any costs you incurred and provide evidence for this. State what you want as redress and mention that it is because of a breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, as outlined above.

Get in quickly, a huge queue of complaints will soon grow.

You can also jump the queue of complaints and complain to the ceo. Go to ceoemail.com for contact details. The CEO won’t respond personally but the matter does get escalated and dealt with by a different team to customer services.

Follow Top 20 Tips for complaining effectively when you write.

If you do not get a satisfactory response you can take the matter to Ombudsman Services: Communications of which O2 is a member. You will need to ask for a deadlock letter or wait until 8 weeks has passed since you started the complaint.

Contract with another provider using the O2 network

Other providers such as Giff Gaff and Tesco use the O2 network. In these cases you will need to follow the advice above but with your provider directly not O2. Always complain to the company with whom you have the contract and pay the money!

Check whether your provider is with Ombudsman Services: Communication or CISAS.

Update on compensation from O2

O2 disruption: Operator offers compensation over outage  The BBC article states the following:

“Mobile operator O2 has said it will compensate its customers following a day of disruption to its data networks.

Pay Monthly customers will be credited with two days of monthly airtime subscription charges in January.

Pay As You Go customers will get 10% credit on a top-up and Pay As You Go mobile broadband users will get 10% off a Bolt On purchase, in the new year.”

“The compensation for Pay Monthly customers includes SMB business and mobile broadband users.”

Update on compensation from Sky

Sky has announced that it is giving affected customers a day of free unlimited UK data this Saturday 8 Dec. Customers will not need to do anything to get this.

Further help for complaining to telecom providers

lap top on woman's knees phone in one hand

 

All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers which provides lots of posts relating to differing telecom issues.

 

book Logo cartoon cow at a laptop of book cover. How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

 

For lots of information, advice, tips, consumer laws and template letter GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

O2 network failures - your consumer rights

The funny side of the O2 problem

Some people saw the funny side of the issues facing O2 customers.

Emergency tariff released following O2 signal failure a great post by Trafford Express.

Businesses and consumer alike got in on the act.