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O2 advert banned after making ‘misleading’ claims

Written by: Emma Lunn
Rival mobile network EE complained that O2’s claim of being “Britain’s best for coverage” was based on customer feedback rather than objective technical evidence.

The O2 advert was published in April 2020 and was for the Samsung S20 5G. It included text that stated, “On the network voted Britain’s Best for Coverage“. This was presented alongside the Uswitch logo, which in small text referenced the operator as the “Uswitch Best Network Coverage Winner 2020”.

EE challenged whether the claim “On the network voted Britain’s Best for Coverage” was misleading, saying that comparative claims about network coverage should be based on objective technical evidence rather than consumer surveys such as Uswitch’s.

O2’s parent company Telefonica UK Ltd disagreed with EE’s view that network coverage could only be measured using objective, technical measures. It said that while technical tests could be carried out to assess the strength of coverage to a certain extent, subjective consumer experience of network coverage was “real and valid”.

But the ASA disagreed, pointing out that advertising rules required that comparisons with competitors “must objectively compare one or more material, relevant, verifiable and representative feature of those products”.

The watchdog was concerned that the data from the Uswitch survey showed only highly subjective experiences and it was not clear how responses could be compared in a meaningful way to come to a view that one network was the “best”.

The ASA concluded that the advert was misleading and breached the advertising code.

The complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) by EE was the latest in a series of complaints mobile networks have made to the regulator about their rivals.

In July the ASA banned a Vodafone advert where the network claimed to be the “UK’s best mobile data network” after a complaint by EE. Also in July two TV adverts for Three UK were banned after Vodafone raised complaints.

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