ASA rules BT misled customers 'over arrival of super-fast broadband' header image

Published: 22nd Jun 2016

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has reprimanded BT Openreach after an investigation led it to discover that the firm had misled customers about the arrival date of super-fast broadband services.

Three consumers contacted the industry watchdog to query whether the estimated dates on both BT and Openreach's websites were deceptive, as in their own separate experiences, the dates quoted had been delayed frequently.

Openreach claims that, although it is part of the BT Group, it is a siloed part of the business and takes care of the roll out of the super-fast broadband network across the UK. Meanwhile, BT said that it is reliant on the other firm for service activation dates, which are displayed on its availability checker online.

It said that because of this dependency, it was therefore not responsible as it could not make comments on why individual dates may be subject to change.

After conducting a comprehensive review of the case, the ASA ruled that although the original advertised dates were based on an estimated timescale, the revised dates were "likely to mislead customers" as they were not based on a clear analysis of how long the delays could potentially take.

"We therefore concluded that the revised dates presented on both availability checkers were misleading," it stated.

The ASA has instructed Openreach to ensure that estimated delivery dates displayed on its website were based on robust calculations rather than guesses, while it informed BT not to display anything unless it could substantiate that Openreach was using a vigorous method to reach the dates.

Andrew Ferguson, editor of website thinkbroadband.com, told the Guardian that the ruling was likely to mean that less information is provided regarding the rollout of super-fast broadband, as in areas where delays were probable a 'being worked on' message would appear.

“Estimates are nice to have, but our advice has always been to never place too much faith in them, certainly never move to an area based on estimate for a fibre rollout.

"Only consider properties that have the service available to order today, or even better, a property where you can see it actually working."