'When we said instant, we didn't mean 'instant'', BT explains

BT has had its knuckles rapped over its advertising again - this time for claiming instant internet.

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Last Updated: 27 Jul 2011

BT is in bother again: the Advertising Standards Authority has taken exception to its ad for BT Infinity, which proclaims 'the birth of the instant internet'. The watchdog says the ad’s claims are misleading because - well, it's not actually instant at all. And BT's best response appears to be that they didn't mean it literally. Is it any wonder broadband ads have a bad rep?
 
Admittedly, the watchdog only received a measly four complaints over this ad (compared to the 5,000 complaints it got over an ad for an abortion advice line, all of which it - quite sensibly - dismissed). Nonetheless, the watchdog decided, not unreasonably in our view, that ‘instant’ really should mean there and then – whereas the small print of the ad admits that it takes five seconds to upload a 6Mb photo, eight seconds to download a 9Mb video and three seconds to download a 6Mb song. Not much of a delay, perhaps - but a delay nonetheless.
 
BT, however, in a piece of sophistry that would put a politician to shame, apparently cited instant coffee and hair removal cream as evidence that nobody actually thinks that 'instant' means, you know, instant. Moreover, it claimed, instant doesn't actually mean the 'complete absence of any delay or zero seconds'. Whatever dictionaries might have us believe.
 
More plausibly, it argued that the ‘instant’ bit actually refers to the amount of time it takes a user to get online. But that's a bit of a puzzling statement too, considering the time it takes to connect to broadband is usually as much down to the hardware as the speed of the line. And its cause wasn't helped by the fact that the watchdog wasn't even convinced by the advertised times: 'We have not seen any evidence that substantiated those times,’ it said.  
 
Of course, the fact that BT is being 'over-generous' with its estimates won't come as a surprise to anyone who saw that Ofcom report last week, which found that many broadband providers have been misleading customers over connection speeds. BT itself delivered an average of just over 4Mb/s for connections advertised as 'up to 8Mb/s', and about 8Mb/s for connections advertised as up to 20 Mb/s. Not particularly impressive.
 
Ofcom suggested that instead of obsessing about speed, providers should focus on their other strengths instead - like great customer service, for example. But judging by MT’s own experiences with BT broadband, maybe it shouldn't go big on that, either...

In today's bulletin:
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