Three Mobile claim to be “the best network for data” misleading

Published on 09 June 2021

The question

What are the limits and substantiation requirements on advertisers in relation to claims on being the “best network for data” in the telecommunications sector?

Key takeaway

A TV, website and paid-for search ad by Three Mobile were banned for failing to produce adequate substantiation to support the claim that they were the “best network for data”.

The ad

The ruling concerns three ads for Three Mobile. The first was a paid for search ad, the second a website page, and the third a TV ad with voiceover. All three ads included some variation of the message “The Best Network for Data”.

The complaint

Competitor EE challenged whether this message used in all three ads was misleading, whether it could be substantiated or whether it was verifiable.

The response

Three Mobile provided a lengthy and substantive response in which it explained that the claim was predominantly based on them winning the Best Network for Data award at the Mobile Consumer Choice Awards and their belief that consumers would not see the Best Network for Data award as a technical award based on objective measures. Further, Three Mobile claimed that nothing in the ads’ context suggested that the award was based on technical performance characteristics. Clearcast and Mobile Choice Awards both fed into the response also, finding that the Mobile Choice Consumer Awards was a well-established and respected independent mobile phone awards organisation.

The decision

The ASA gave a lengthy ruling and found the ads to be in breach of the CAP Code for a number of reasons, namely:

(i) it often wasn’t clear in the ads that the claim was based on the Consumer Choice Award;

(ii) the use of the word “data” was likely to give consumers the impression that the rating was based on the technical performance of the network, rather than factors relating to the company more widely, such as customer service; and

(iii) the details of the basis for the comparison in the ads were not readily accessible.

Why is this important?

The ruling highlights the need for clarity in any claims regarding goods or services being the “best” in a category. Ads using this kind of wording need to be clear on the metrics used to decide why the goods or services are the best, especially when this could be in relation to technical performance over, for example, consumer perception or popularity.

Any practical tips?

If you make any claims of being the “best” in your advertising, whether it is to do with goods or services, be mindful of substantiation and clarity in relation to those claims to not potentially mislead consumers. “Best” claims are comparative claims, and you need to set out the basis of the comparison in an intelligible way to consumers, and if you are relying on an award to make the claim, lock in reference to that award in your advertising to ensure the basis of the claim is expressly clear.

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