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Vodafone ads banned for claiming to be the best network

Written by: Emma Lunn
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a Vodafone paid-for internet search ad and a website and newspaper ad claiming that Vodafone was the “UK’s best mobile data network”.

The advertising watchdog found that claims were misleading and unsubstantiated.

A paid-for internet search ad for Vodafone, seen on 22 January 2021, stated in large text “Vodafone Official Site – On The UK’s Best Network”. Further text stated “Keep Connecting With Our Unlimited Data Plans On The UK’s Best Network. Our Best Ever Network. Keep Connecting”.

Rival EE challenged whether the claim “The UK’s Best Network” was misleading and verifiable.

Vodafone claimed the ad would normally read “The UK’s Best Network as voted by readers of Trusted Reviews”, but it had appeared as just “The UK’s Best Network” due to a “technical error”. The network said it removed the claim on learning of the complaint.

Vodafone said the Trusted Reviews award was made following poll-based surveys where users of the Trusted Reviews site were asked which provider they deemed to be the “Best Network Provider” out of Vodafone, EE, O2, Virgin, Three, BT and giffgaff. It said the claim was “based on consumers’ subjective views”.

The ASA upheld the complaint, saying that consumers were likely to interpret the claims as a reference to technical aspects such as coverage and reliability. It said claims to be the best “needed to involve an objective component beyond solely customers’ subjective perceptions of their own networks”.

The website and press ad for Vodafone, published in March 2020, included the headline claim “Awarded the UK’s best mobile data network” alongside an image of a gold medal with the claim “No. 1 Mobile Network Performance. Nperf. 2019”.

The press ad featured the headline claim “Switch to 5G. On the UK’s best mobile data network”. EE challenged whether the claim “the UK’s best mobile data network” was misleading or verifiable.

The ASA investigated and upheld the complaint due to concerns about the sample size used by Nperf and whether the data was representative geographically.

The ASA rulings are the latest in a series where mobile phone networks challenge claims made in rivals’ adverts. Last week two TV adverts for Three UK were banned after Vodafone raised complaints.

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