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ASA Ruling on SKY UK Ltd t/a Sky – “Super Reliable” broadband

Published on 25 September 2017

Two Sky adverts claimed that Sky's broadband services were “super reliable”.

The facts

The first, a TV ad, depicted an animated dog and was centered around the concept of it receiving an unreliable broadband service.  The TV ad was accompanied by a voiceover stating “switch to super reliable sky broadband” and over screen text stating “Super Reliable Sky Broadband”.  The second ad was a national press piece which featured the claim “Super Reliable Sky Broadband Unlimited”.

Virgin Media challenged whether “Super Reliable” was misleading and could be substantiated.

The response

Sky accepted that their reference to “Sky Broadband” in both ads was wide enough to encompass both their ADSL2+ and fibre broadband packages.  They stated that they thought that consumers would take “Super Reliable” to mean that the service was very reliable and could be trusted to work well.  They said that they did not consider this to be a comparative claim, and that more than one provider was able to make a “Super Reliable” claim.

Sky considered that they were able to substantiate the “Super Reliable” claims with evidence related to their overall performance and complaints performance.  They relied on data from Ofcom's 2016 “UK Home broadband performance: The performance of fixed-line broadband delivered to UK residential consumers” Report.  Sky said that they considered that factors most relevant when assessing overall reliability of a broadband service included latency, jitter, packet loss, peak time performance and daily disconnections.  They therefore focussed on these aspects of the Report.

The decision

The ASA upheld the complaint.  They considered that consumers would understand these claims to be general claims about the overall reliability of all of Sky's broadband packages, and would expect a “super reliable” service to deliver a consistent connection with very few interruptions or slowdowns.  Accordingly, they said that they would expect to see evidence demonstrating that all of Sky's broadband services delivered consistency in all measurable factors of relevance.  They were satisfied that the factors identified by Sky were the key metrics relevant to consumers' expectations of “reliability” for broadband, and went on to examine whether evidence supplied sufficiently substantiated the “Super Reliable” claims.

The ASA concluded that the Ofcom data evidenced that Sky's fibre packages delivered consistency in all measurable factors of relevance, but that its ADSL2+ service failed to deliver consistency in peak time performance (i.e. one element).  Since the claim “Super Reliable Broadband” was wide enough to encompass ADSL2+, it was considered misleading to describe Sky's broadband services generally as “Super Reliable”.

For the TV ad, the ASA considered that the “switch to super reliable sky broadband” voiceover, coupled with the concept of an unreliable broadband service, did implicitly create a comparison in the mind of consumers of Sky vs other broadband providers.  Having examined the Ofcom data, they said that this demonstrated that Sky's broadband packages delivered a similarly consistent connection to equivalent packages of competitors, but that Sky was not more consistent overall.  This was therefore likely to mislead consumers.

Why is this important?

This is a further example of the very high levels of substantiation required for claims in the telecommunications sector.  It also demonstrates that “switch” messaging is capable of being interpreted as encompassing a comparative claim, and so advertisers will need to ensure that they are able to substantiate superior performance/services with comparative data when making such claims.

Any practical tips?

Keep claims as specific as possible – allowing claims to be viewed as encompassing a number of services (each with varying levels of performance) will naturally make substantiation more difficult.

Watch out for subtle comparative claims in your advert – these will still need robust data in order to substantiate even if competitors are not specifically named in the ad itself.