Vodafone UK

ASA bans Vodafone ads claiming to be best network

Advertising Watchdog found the claim misleading and unfounded.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned Vodafone’s paid internet search ads and website and newspaper ads, claiming that Vodafone is “the best mobile data network in the UK.”

 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.

ASA Statement

We understood that the award was based on a mobile poll of users of the Trusted Reviews site where, of 42,000 votes across six categories, 1,007 were for best network. Respondents were invited to choose from a list of seven providers, Vodafone, EE, O2, Virgin, Three, BT and giffgaff, the order of which was randomised each time a user clicked on the poll. Respondents had not been actively sought out to vote but had chosen to do so voluntarily.

We noted that the methodology required respondents to choose which of the seven providers they deemed to be the “Best Network Provider”. We considered that the poll question was very broad and that it was unclear what the criteria were for rating a particular provider as the “Best Network Provider”. We considered respondents were likely to have differing understandings of how well their network provider performed depending on their typical usage habits and requirements.

Furthermore, we considered respondents were unlikely to have insight into how their own network provider compared against the others on the list. Overall, we were concerned that the data showed only highly subjective preferences. It was not clear how responses could be compared in a meaningful way to come to a view that one network provider was the “best”. We considered the comparative nature of the claim required an objective component, and it was unclear to us how subjective preference alone would deliver such data.

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