ASA Adjudication on British Telecommunications plc
British Telecommunications plc t/a
81 Newgate Street
9 March 2011
Computers and telecommunications
Number of complaints:
A TV ad for British Telecommunications plc (BT) showed people using mobile phones and iPads in various locations, including outside a pub, a bus station, a park bench and a car park next to an urban football ground. A voice-over stated "Only BT broadband customers can use their home broadband out of the home for free. Thanks to our network of over two million Wi-Fi hotspots. Find out more at bt.com/freewifi, and download our new app." On-screen text stated "subject to availability. Requires opt-in & wireless equipment. Fair Use Policy applies. Android & iPhone apps available. iPad app launches 1st December".
Two complainants, who believed the service's potential to work away from buildings and in open spaces was limited, challenged whether the shown locations misleadingly exaggerated the capability of the service.
British Telecommunications Ltd (BT) said customers could connect online when away from their home broadband connection through Openzone hotspots or FON hotspots. They said the ad showed users accessing the internet on mobile devices in scenes that were not recognisable locations but representative of the types of areas that could be hotspots. They said the users in the pub and park scene were no less than 20 metres away from a nearby pub and cafe, where either Openzone or FON hotspots could be accessed, the user in the bus station was no less than 20 metres away from a BT phone box, where an Openzone hotspot could be accessed, and the user near the football ground was no less than 25 metres away from residential flats where a FON hotspot could be accessed.
They provided two reports that summarised the coverage of the BT Home Hub for BT FON customers. The results showed that connections to a BT Home Hub 2.0a were possible 100 metres away, and those connections could be used effectively by a personal digital assistance 80 metres away. Another report summarised the signal from a BT Openzone hotspot emanating from an enabled BT Payphone. The results stated that access points, together with an associated router and power supplies, could provide a signal between 35 and 165 meters away, depending on orientation and direction of user and distance from power supplies.
Clearcast said they approved the ad on the basis that BT provided their assurance that consumers were able to receive wifi in all the locations shown in the ad.
We noted from the reports that BT FON hotspots could be accessed by customers up to 100 metres away from the BT Home Hub 2.0a and that the signal from a BT Openzone hotspot, installed on an enabled BT Payphone, could be obtained between 35 and 165 metres away. We noted BT said each user in the scene was less than 25 metres away from a hotspot, but did not consider that viewers would necessarily understand that from the ad.
We noted, however, the voice-over stated "only BT broadband customers can use their home broadband out of the home for free" and considered that viewers were likely to interpret the scenes as illustrations of BT customers' ability to access their home broadband outside of their home, rather than literal representations of specific locations or types of locations where BT customers could receive broadband. Although we noted the service's potential to work away from buildings and in open spaces was limited, we considered that, on the basis of the evidence provided by BT, the shown locations did not misleadingly exaggerate its capability. We therefore concluded that the ad was unlikely to mislead.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 3.1, 3.2 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Substantiation), 3.10 and 3.11 (Qualification) and 3.12 (Exaggeration) but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Broadcast)