The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has dished out a mixed ruling on a complaint about claims made by Bulldog (owned by Cable & Wireless) for its 4Mbps broadband service.
Three complaints were made, but only in one instance was the complaint upheld. The challenged statements were:
- “the ultimate broadband experience”
- “the peak of speed”
- “makes other broadband services look like dial-up”.
The ASA ruled that Bulldog’s claim that it offered the ‘ultimate broadband experience’ was misleading, but conceded that Bulldog was entitled to say it offered ‘the peak of speed’ and that it ‘makes other broadband services look like dial-up’ – at the time of the advert.
The company’s online promotion, run last summer, bigged up their services like Mohammed Ali in a boasting mood: ‘It’s the ultimate broadband experience. Makes other broadband services look like dial-up. … Bulldog 4 gives customers in central London the peak of speed and value.’
The ASA ruled that, at the time, it was not accurate to say that the service was the ultimate broadband experience, although it was the fastest available and Bulldog had been named Best Consumer Broadband ISP 2004 in the industry’s awards.
Bulldog seems to have become unstuck by the success of their own advertising, with customers instantly clambering for a piece of the ‘ultimate broadband experience’.
The rapid increase in customer numbers following the launch of the service significantly affected service quality, and complaints started to roll in.
The ASA ruled: ‘the severe customer service difficulties that all Bulldog customers had experienced after the appearance of the online advertisement and the significantly reduced speeds some Bulldog 4 customers had experienced meant the claim that the advertiser’s service offered “the ultimate broadband experience” was likely to mislead.’
Interestingly, the ASA said that much of the evidence for the poor service had come from Web forum discussions – and they confirm that this is the first time they’ve used this type of input.
Despite all the online moaning and service difficulties, the ASA ruled that Bulldog was still entitled to say that its service offered ‘the peak of broadband speeds’, as ‘many Bulldog 4 customers had benefited from the full speed 4Mbps service.’
The ASA concluded that, ‘because the advertisers were able to offer 4Mbps broadband, which was the fastest home broadband service available at the time, the advertisement appeared, the claim was justified.’
How times have changed. From August to 8Mbit from UK online.
The ASA also agreed with Bulldog’s assessment that, ‘if the starting point for broadband was 512kbps, it was approximately 10 times the speed of standard dial-up; the Bulldog 4Mbps connection was eight times the speed of a 512kbps connection’.
In other words, it agreed that that it was fair to say that Bulldog 4 made other broadband services ‘look like dial-up’.
The ASA continued with this Olympic-length sentence (take a deep breath before proceeding):
The Authority acknowledged the claim was likely to be seen by consumers as an expression of the advertisers” opinion about their services, but nevertheless considered that the severe customer service difficulties that all Bulldog customers had experienced after the appearance of the online advertisement and the significantly reduced speeds some Bulldog 4 customers had experienced meant the claim that the advertisers” service offered “the ultimate broadband experience” was likely to mislead.
The Authority asked the advertisers not to promise a service standard that could not be provided in future advertisements.
The lessons to be learnt for both Bulldog and other ISPs is that you’ve got to be able to walk the talk and ensure that you have the resources to cope with the results of your advertising campaigns.