EE’s advertising campaign describing their 4G network as ‘50% faster’ has been banned by the advertising standards authority after complaints from Three and two members of the public.
The claims in the website, press and TV adverts seen between April and June 2016 stated that ‘EE’s 4G network was 50% faster than O2, Vodafone and Three.’ Other claims included that the network was 79% faster than O2 and 75% faster than Three. This was all based on Ookla’s Speedtest Intelligence Portal and Aggregated Data April-Sept 2015. However, the complaints to Ofcom accused the ad campaign by Saatchi & Saatchi of being unsubstantiated and misleading.
In analysing the adverts, the ASA divided these complaints into two issues, one focused on the web page ad, and the other based on print and online. The complaint against the website of EE was not upheld, with the ASA saying it was clear enough that the claim was based on historic test data so as not to mislead consumers.
However, the second issue was ruled to be a breach of the CAP Code, due to the campaign not doing enough to iterate that the claims were based on data from the previous year and did not reflect live network performance at the time of publication.
In conclude the investigation, the ASA stated that the adverts, ‘must not appear again in their current form. We told EE to ensure their ads did not suggest that comparisons were accurate at the time the claim was published unless they held adequate evidence.’
Responding to the ruling, EE stated, 'Contrary to reports, the ASA ruled that our 50% faster claim was not misleading. They confirmed that our claim was 100% accurate and that it was based on reliable, independent tests. The claim expired in October 2016, and the ad had been replaced before this ruling was confirmed. They did, however, say that we should have made it clearer to customers that the claim was based on tests from a specific time period. We know the importance of being transparent about the network experience consumers can expect, so we will make sure our top independent network rankings and awards are presented more clearly in future.
News of EE’s advertising standards breech based on claims about network speed will come as an embarassment to the operator as they recently derided their rivals O2, Vodafone and Three for not being ‘clear on coverage’, in this they accused the industry as a whole of confusing customers with misleading network testing figures.
Three’s success in getting the advert banned by the ASA represents a further escalation of the spat between EE and Three (and to a lesser extent O2 as well), which has gone back and forth on issues such as spectrum auction rules, coverage, network performance and adverts.
The judgement sees Three get revenge for a campaign of theirs that EE successfully had banned in May earlier this year. EE had challenged Three’s claim that it was ‘The undisputed. UK’s most reliable network. Again,’ the ASA ruled that this was indeed misleading.