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Ad watchdog terminates Vodafone's cherry-picked 'unbeatable connecting calls' claims

Three challenges rival operator over sketchy UK geography

Blighty's ad watchdog has given Vodafone a ticking off following a complaint from rival carrier Three, which successfully challenged the firm's "unbeatable at connecting calls" claims.

A press and website advert were found to have cherry-picked locations across the UK to support Voda's assertion that it was "unbeatable" at connecting customers to their calls.

Hutchison 3G UK Ltd, which trades as Three, griped that the ads were misleading and could not be substantiated.

It moaned about two separate but similar claims in a complaint filed with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Vodafone failed to mount a robust defence against Three's grousing.

The ASA, as part of its investigation, consulted Britain's communications regulator Ofcom, which expressed concern about the cities, towns, and routes selected by Vodafone for its ads.

Ofcom noted that the sample was limited and excluded large parts of the UK. The ASA said:

We noted there were no locations in Wales or Northern Ireland and that the two Scottish locations were approximately ten miles away from each other. We therefore considered that most of Scotland had been excluded from the sample.

We noted that the majority of locations were in the West Midlands, North West of England, West Yorkshire and London, which left the South East, South West and North East of England excluded.

The watchdog agreed with Three that Voda's claims in the ads were misleading and could not be substantiated because the sample used didn't appear to offer "a true representation of UK consumers' experience of call connection and dropped calls."

The outcome? Slapped wrist for Vodafone, with the company being told not to let the ads appear again in their current form.

"We told Vodafone not to imply they performed as well as other mobile network operators on call connection and dropped calls performance across the UK coverage unless they held suitable substantiation," the ASA huffed. ®

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