ASA rules Sky must stop 'exaggerating its network reliability' header image

Published: 7th Apr 2015

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that telecommunications firm Sky must stop claiming to provide broadband customers with 99.9 per cent network reliability, as this may be misleading.

According to the advertising standards watchdog, the page on the firm's website that provides details about its broadband packages could lead consumers to believe that the figure provided by Sky referred to the actual service they would receive.

Potential or existing customers would have to read the small print to see that the 99.9 per cent was in regard to the connections to local exchanges.

The ASA's investigation and subsequent ruling was a result of a complaint made to the watchdog by market rival Virgin Media, which claimed that the wording used on the website was ambiguous.  

On the website, the text stated: "Super reliable, totally unlimited Sky Broadband. Sky Broadband Unlimited has 99.9% core network reliability and we're not stopping there.

“We're future proofing our network by constantly innovating and investing in the most modern technology to bring our customers even faster Sky Broadband Unlimited. We also monitor your connection to deliver our best speed and stability."

However, below the main advertisement, the small print added that the network delivered 99.9 per cent uptime to the local exchange and other factors - such as home wiring, equipment and websites visited - could affect overall reliability of the service.

In its complaint, Virgin Media said that it understood Sky's core network was only responsible for a small proportion of data transferred by customers, but they still could mistakenly assume that their complete broadband package was 99.9 per cent reliable.  

However, Sky disputed this as it felt the small print adequately explained that other factors could affect the overall reliability and customers would not overlook this caveat.

The ASA said that as most consumers were concerned with the reliability of their overall, or 'end-to-end', connection rather than that of portions of the network. It believes that consumers would consider this when making a decision to purchase a broadband package.

In addition, the watchdog felt that the explanatory small print that accompanied the main body of the advertisement did not adequately qualify the claims made. It decided to uphold Virgin Media's claim and determined that Sky had breached four Committee of Advertising Practice rules.