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TalkTalk's broadband ad is 99.9% untrue

Barry Collins
6 May 2015
Router
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Broadband provider gets wrists slapped for misleading claims about its network reliability

TalkTalk has been reprimanded by the advertising watchdog for claiming that its broadband connections are "99.9% reliable". Four complainants challenged whether TalkTalk could substantiate the claim. It turns out it couldn't.

The company based the claim on the reliability of telephone exchanges, rather than actual broadband connections. In its defence, TalkTalk said it had "measured the availability of telephone exchanges from January to August 2014, which was calculated to be 99.9986%". The company added that "other factors beyond TalkTalk's control might affect availability, which was explained in the promotion's terms and conditions".

Given that BT is responsible for maintaining telephone exchanges, and that TalkTalk is only responsible for maintaining its own equipment in exchanges where the lines are "unbundled", it's hard to fathom how TalkTalk could possibly extrapolate that figure to signify the reliability of its broadband connections. The Advertising Standards Authority wasn't impressed, either. 

"We were concerned that consumers would not be aware of the distinction between a provider's core network and a user's overall internet connection," the ASA ruling states. "We considered most consumers would be interested in the reliability of their end-to-end broadband connection up to the point of their router or into their home, rather than the reliability of certain portions of the overall connection, when making a decision to purchase a broadband package with a particular internet service provider.

"We also noted that there were external factors that would affect overall connection reliability, which we understood TalkTalk would not have control over," the ASA added. "Because the evidence did not substantiate the likely interpretation of the claim, we concluded the ad was misleading."

The company was told to stop running the ads and "ensure future ads made the basis of network reliability claims sufficiently clear". It was also ticked off for not making clear a switching deal was only available to new customers. 

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