Last week BT got a well deserved slap on the wrists by the Advertising Standards Authority for its “misleading” Infinity broadband availability checker.
Customers who were hoping to sign up to the firm’s “superfast” fibre broadband complained to the ASA after go-live dates were “repeatedly” extended and, in some cases “over a long period.”
In its defence, BT told the ASA that published the dates were only ever “provisional” and that “it was unfortunately not possible to absolutely guarantee that a cabinet would be Infinity-enabled on the dates shown”.
However the ASA ruled that “the appearance of a date or provisional date in the availability checker suggested that active plans were in place to roll out BT Infinity in that area and that the service would therefore be available on or around that time, and the listed date should not be subsequently or regularly pushed back.”
Accordingly the watchdog said BT’s claimed provisional dates were “likely to mislead”.
This is very familiar to me and I know to many others.
Just before placing an order for broadband with BT last year, the expected go-live date for Infinity moved from the end of September to 31st December 2012. The date then slipped again from December 2012 to this June.
Despite the changing dates, my local exchange is already fibre enabled and shows on Openreach’s website as accepting orders. At least one cabinet in a neighbouring street has a public notice proclaiming that fibre broadband is now available.
A few days back I asked an Openreach engineer who was working on my street cabinet whether he was working on the Infinity rollout. His response was that the cabinet was fully connected and expressed surprise that no-one in the street was connected to whatever Infinity-specific gubbins he intimated was inside the cabinet.
His comments lead me to re-check the go-live date via BT’s website and call their sales team to ask whether I could upgrade.
Both methods still returned a June 2013 activation date, so I emailed the NGA team at Openreach as per the invite on their website. That was Tuesday and no response has yet been received.
But here’s where it gets interesting.
In the absence of a response I’ve continued to check the availability checker on the BT website. Late last night the checker still claimed June 2013 was the first date I’d be able to order Infinity. By 10am this morning that had changed to the service being available to order from today.
Though I could have placed the order online, I called BT’s sales team to ensure that they carried out their own checks which also confirmed the service is indeed available now. On that basis I’ve placed the order. in fact i’m probably the first person in my entire street to have done so.
With any luck, two weeks from now I’ll be zooming along the web at up to 80Mbps.
But how is it possible for a company to believe a product won’t be available for another 5 months right up until the day it starts taking orders for it?
A helpful chap at BT Care is looking into the wild variation between yesterday’s claimed activation date and reality and has promised to clarify whether Infinity really is available right now.
That at least should avoid me waiting until my February activation date only to then discover I’ve wasted my time.
In the meantime I hope BT will forgive me if I suggest that what the company described to the ASA as “provisional” dates in this case looks a lot like guesswork.