ASA ruling on Vodafone pricing
Did Vodafone exaggerate the price at which it could offer consumers broadband?
Vodafone displayed a page on its website which outlined its broadband service, “Vodafone Gigafast”. The page displayed headline claims including: “Blast off at an average of 900Mbps” and “Enjoy lightning-fast internet speeds with Vodafone Gigafast Broadband”.
These headlines were followed by smaller text, which stated “We offer a range of average speeds from 100Mbps to 900Mbps”. Still further down the page were also the following claims: “Great broadband doesn’t have to cost the earth – enjoy Vodafone Gigafast Broadband speeds for as little as £23 a month”; and “[d]ownloading a 100GB game usually takes hours… with Vodafone Gigafast Broadband you can become a legend in minutes”.
Rival internet service provider Virgin Media Ltd challenged whether Vodafone’s claim as to provision of “Gigafast Broadband” was misleading, in that it implied that Vodafone’s entire service was capable of delivering speeds of 1 Gigabit per second.
Vodafone responded by noting that “Vodafone Gigafast” was trademarked, and that the statement itself was disclaimed; a prominent, clear statement stated that the speeds available under the Gigafast line ranged from 100Mbps to 900Mbps, on average.
Further, Vodafone asserted that they were able to deliver speeds to routers at 1Gbps, through use of their “fibre to the home” infrastructure.
The ASA expressed that they felt it was clear from the wording used that Vodafone Gigafast referred to a range of packages available to customers, of which one, was capable of achieving 1Gbps.
The product page featured the claim, “enjoy lightning-fast internet speeds with Vodafone Gigafast Broadband”, but this claim was qualified appropriately with the following caveat: “average speeds from 100Mbps to 900Mbps”. The claim as to Gigafast Broadband was therefore, not misleading.
However, the ASA took issue with Vodafone’s claims as regards price, namely their claim that “Great broadband doesn’t have to cost the earth – enjoy Vodafone Gigafast Broadband speeds for as little as £23 a month”.
The ASA noted that this pricing claim was not specifically linked to a specific broadband package. As such, the consumer could get the impression that a service costing £23 per month could achieve broadband speeds of 1Gbps. This was not the case - only a service providing an average speed of 100 Mbps could be purchased for £23. A package providing speeds of up to 900Mbps on average would cost the consumer £48 per month.
As such, although the ASA considered that the ad regarding Vodafone Gigafast referred to a range of packages of varying speeds up to 1Gbps, the implication that a consumer could achieve speeds of 1Gbps for £23 a month was misleading. In this regard, Vodafone was in breach of CAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.10 and 3.11 (Qualification) and 3.9 (Exaggeration).
Why is this important?
Despite using wording which made it clear that Vodafone Gigafast referred to a range of packages available to customers, only one of which was capable of achieving 1Gbps, Vodafone failed to be transparent in respect of price. As such, it is clear that transparent claims as to service levels will still fall foul of the ASA’s rules, if they mislead as to corresponding prices.
Any practical tips?
Vodafone has since amended its website to say “our packages start at £28 per month for new customers purchasing Gigafast Broadband 100”. Clear wording indicating a range of prices corresponding to differing levels of service, will avoid accusations of exaggeration.