CityFibre loses ASA battle over ‘fake fibre’ advertising
CITYFIBRE HAS SUFFERED defeat in its battle with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), with a judge dismissing the firm’s argument that allowing FTTC services to be marketed as fibre is misleading.
The beef between CityFibre and the ASA first began back in 2008, when the advertising watchdog gave the green light for ‘hybrid fibre’ or ‘part fibre’ services, such as FTTC or G.fast networks, to use the same advertising spiel as those offering ‘full fibre’ services.
The ASA agreed to review its position, but in November 2017, it concluded to recommend only minor changes. At the time, it said that ‘fibre’ was not one of the priorities identified by consumers when choosing a package and that consumers did not notice ‘fibre’ claims in adverts.
This hit a nerve with CityFibre, which in March last year launched a judicial review against the ASA’s 2017 decision, arguing that, by allowing ISPs to use ‘fibre’ branding for slower hybrid fibre services, the ASA is not only permitting but encouraging firms to mislead customers.
However, in a judgement handed on Monday, Justice Murray dismissed CityFibre’s argument, adding that the firm’s claims were “fundamentally flawed”.
“It is the claimant’s case [CityFibre] that full-fibre infrastructure is technically superior to part-fibre infrastructure in a number of important respects. The defendant [the ASA] accepts this, for the most part, but takes the view that the position is more ‘nuanced’ than the claimant maintains,” wrote Justice Murray in his summary.
“CityFibre starts its analysis with the question: what does a theoretical average consumer need to know in order to be a reasonably well-informed average consumer? That is not the right approach.
“The ASA starts its analysis with the question: what is the level of knowledge of a theoretical average member of the group of consumers at whom the advertising is targeted? That is the right approach.
“The goal is to protect consumers at whom the relevant advertising is targeted from being misled, and therefore the general level of knowledge about the product or service being advertised needs to be judged by reference to that group.”
Greg Mesch, chief executive at CityFibre, said that CityFibre would consider appealing the ruling. In a statement, he said: “The decision is particularly disappointing in light of the recent progress made in other countries which have restricted misleading advertising and established clear rules to distinguish full-fibre from inferior copper-based services.
“We are currently considering appealing the judgement and would like to thank the thousands of people that joined our campaign and signed our petition for change.” µ
Source : Inquirer