ASA gets sniffy over broadband ad

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has issued a mixed ruling on a complaint about claims made by Bulldog for its 4Mbps broadband service.

The ASA ruled that Bulldog’s claim that it offered the ‘ultimate broadband experience’ was misleading, but ruled that Bulldog was entitled to say it offered ‘the peak of speed’ and that it ‘makes other broadband services look like dial-up’.

Bulldog’s online promotion, run last summer, said: ‘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.

However, the Authority ruled, the rapid increase in customer numbers following the launch of the service had significantly affected service quality: ‘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.’ Much of the evidence for this, the ASA said, had come from Web forum discussions.

Despite these 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.’

It 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.’

On the third complaint, the ASA 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’. Therefore, it ruled, it was fair to say that Bulldog 4 made other broadband services ‘look like dial-up’.

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