Heart Internet takes exception to FastHost claims of "Best in the UK"

Wed, 16th May 2012, 14:14

British web host Fasthosts has run afoul of the  Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) for boasting that its virtual servers were the "best" in the UK. The hosting company was unable to prove that its virtual machines were better than all the other virtual servers in the country, or that they used "industry-leading technology", the ad watchdog has ruled.

It appears that rival competetor web host Heart Internet took exception to the wording that appeared on the FastHost site and in a magazine ad. Heart Internet Ltd challenged whether:

  • 1. the claim "Best UK spec" in relation to virtual servers on the website ad (a) and in ad (b) was misleading and could be substantiated;
  • 2. the claim "RESELLER HOSTING ONLY £19.99pm" on the website (a) was misleading, because it did not make clear that that price was an introductory rate for 12 months only;
  • 3. the claims "industry leading range" in relation to web hosting solutions in ad (a), "INDUSTRY LEADING TECHNOLOGY" in relation to virtual servers and dedicated servers in ads (b) and (c) respectively and "Industry leading power & performance" in relation to dedicated servers in ad (c), were misleading and could be substantiated; and
  • 4. ad (b) misleadingly implied that the specification listed was available at the lowest price of £26.99 ex VAT.

Fasthosts responded stating that it was "confident that its services were superior to those of other suppliers and it provided a table which compared aspects of its service with three of its competitors".

  • 1)They believed that their platform and hypervisor technology provided customers with a superior virtual private server (VPS) experience, which included automatic failover and recovery, large scalable architecture and excellent support and service-level agreements (SLAs).
  • 2)Fasthosts said the £19.99 price for the reseller service was a one-month contract only and that the customer could close their account at any time with no further obligation.
  • 3)Fasthosts said they replaced their servers every 18 to 24 months to ensure the latest technology was being used.
  • 4)Fasthosts said there were two items that were not included in the £26.99 price. They pointed out that the "Plesk control panel to run multiple websites" had been described as "optional" in the body copy and that "Resource monitoring with email & SMS alerts*" had been linked to text that stated "SMS usage alerts service is available from £3 per month & limits apply". They believed it was clear from the ad that those two features would not be included at the £26.99 price.

The Advertising Standards Agency found that the word "best" made a claim that Fasthosts couldn't substantiate:

The ASA considered that consumers would interpret the claim "Best UK spec" to mean that Fasthosts' virtual servers had a higher overall specification than those available from all other online services providers in the UK.

Therefore, having servers that were better than a few others did not mean they were the best in the country, the ASA decided:

We noted that the comparative table provided included the specification of virtual servers offered by three of their competitors only. Because we had not seen evidence that demonstrated Fasthosts offered the best specification virtual servers in the UK, we concluded that the claim had not been substantiated and was misleading.

The ASA slapped Fasthosts on the wrist and ordered that it not to make "best" or "industry leading" claims unless they hold the necessary substantiation for the claim!
Two other complaints about how Fasthosts advertised its prices were dismissed by the agency.

HostJury is attempting to aquire a copy of the comparative table of the  three competitors. There was no indication in the ruling of which three FastHost used. It does make one wonder if the ASA has ever looked at any of those hosts offering unlimited everything claims!

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