CityFibre hits out at UK fibre advertising rules

CityFibre has rubbished research from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that inferred consumers aren’t that bothered by fibre, and claimed other providers are directly misleading potential customers.

While such posturing should always be taken with a pinch of salt, as any research which doesn’t say CityFibre is the most important company on the planet will always be rubbished by CityFibre, the loud Northerner does have a point. Just because the consumers aren’t that bothered about whether a service is fibre-based or not doesn’t mean the ASA shouldn’t create stringent rules around it.

CityFibre has now filed for a judicial review of the ASA’s continued use of the term ‘fibre’ to describe some services which are only part-fibre. The firm argues the research and logic leading to the decision was fundamentally flawed, and that only full-fibre offerings should be able to use the term.

“You could hardly expect an automotive manufacturer to get away with advertising an ‘electric car’ when the most electric part of the car was its windows. The time has come to do away with ‘fake fibre’,” said CityFibre CEO Greg Mesch.

“The ASA’s short-sighted decision to allow yesterday’s copper-based infrastructure to masquerade as the future-proof full fibre networks of tomorrow is a clear failure in its duty. It has failed to ensure honest and truthful broadband advertising, it has failed to enable consumers to make informed choices and it has failed to support a national infrastructure project critical to our success in a digital age.”

CityFibre has made itself a reputation of moany very vocally and being incredible combative when it comes to press announcements or any rules from the ASA and Ofcom which doesn’t give it an advantage as a challenger brand, so you have to be careful here.

The firm is referring to rule changes made by the ASA back in November 2017 which looked at advertised broadband speed claims. In the same consultation, the ASA said consumers weren’t that bothered about whether the service was fibre or copper, just as long as it was quick enough, therefore there wouldn’t be any wholesale changes or challenges made to the language used in advertising. This is what CityFibre has taken issue with.

Just to be clear, broadband providers cannot claim their service is fibre if it is not. They also cannot claim it is full-fibre unless it is. Part-copper services cannot be claimed to be best in the market. And advertisers have to claim appropriate speeds for the technology being used in delivering the service. Taking CityFibre’s comments alone you would assume it was the wild west, but despite being blown out of proportion, it does have a point.

Rules should be tightened up around this area of advertising, as just because consumers do not care about fibre now they will in the future, when fibre connections will be critical to meet the demands of the digital economy. By this point, misconceptions and false-truths might be ingrained in the mind of the consumer as the rules are lax now. This is not to say that the rules are not accurate as they are, but there are too many grey areas for the ‘creative’ marketers to exploit. We generally don’t trust those in advertising and they have done little to prove this mistrust is not appropriate, especially in the telco space.

Perhaps advertisers should be held accountable to explicitly say what type of network is available. Maybe they should have to describe the service as one of two offerings; part-fibre or full-fibre. No other options, just to the point and informative. This would be fair to the consumer, but since when has that been a concern for the advertisers.

  • Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies

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