MSE News

Vodafone broadband ads banned over misleading speed claims

A number of Vodafone adverts have been banned by the advertising watchdog after appearing to guarantee consistently faster broadband speeds than most customers would receive, and implying that those who experienced issues such as buffering would get money off their bill.

A television and radio advert which ran in March featured the actor Martin Freeman playing a video game online, and losing signal. A voiceover in each ad stated: "Vodafone guarantee your home broadband speeds or money off until it's fixed".

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said consumers would interpret the ads to mean that Vodafone could guarantee a minimum speed that was fast enough to ensure they didn't experience common issues such as buffering when using their devices at home as normal, and they would get money off their bill if they did.

As the customers may not always get money off their bills in these circumstances, it ruled that these ads and a further online advert should not appear in their current form again.

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What did the adverts show?

As well as showing Martin Freeman being cut off while playing a video game, the radio advert featured a second player saying: "Your internet's gone again has it? What's the point in playing this game if your broadband keeps going? Just get Vodafone!"

The TV ad featured a second player saying: "Your broadband is rubbish". 

The TV ad then told viewers: "Claim a discount if sync speed is below 25Mbps for Superfast 1 (Up to 38Mbps) & 55Mbps for Superfast 2 (up to 76Mbps)."

The ASA was concerned that any guarantee based on sync speeds, which it said were not an accurate measure of the speeds experienced by customers, was likely to result in some consumers experiencing slow speeds but still not qualifying for the guarantee.

It said the throughput speed, which factors in traffic and other limitations on speed, was a more appropriate measure. 

Vodafone said it chose to use "sync speed" – the speed received by a customer's router – as a measurement because it was the speed that both the provider and network Openreach were able to control.

What does the ASA say?

Nine complainants, including BT, challenged whether the speed guarantee claims were misleading and could be substantiated.

The ASA upheld the complaints and ruled that the ads must not appear again in their current form.

Its report said: "We told Vodafone to ensure their future advertising did not mislead by stating or implying that their broadband ensured minimum speeds that were fast enough that customers did not experience common issues such as buffering when using their devices in the home to perform typical online activities, or that customers who experienced such issues would qualify for a reduction to their bill."

We've asked Vodafone if it wanted to comment and will update this story if we hear back.