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Carphone Warehouse Research Claims Misleading, Says ASA

October 8 2012

UK mobile phone retailer The Carphone Warehouse used misleading research-based claims in an ad on its web site for a child-safe network, Bemilo, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled.

Misleading claims: The Carphone WarehouseAmong its transgressions, Carphone Warehouse added 'don't knows' into positive responses; made 'absolute claims' about browsing time and bullying by text based on parents' views which were 'hard to verify'; and added together percentages for two responses quite likely to have been multi-coded by the same respondent, to produce a high figure on a question about use of phones in class. However a complaint about the bottom line claim that Bemilo was 'the safest mobile network' was not upheld, the claim having some reasonable / arguable basis in fact and being self-evidently of a more subjective nature.

Overall four claims of 'misleading advertising' were upheld and Carphone Warehouse were instructed that the ad 'must not appear again in its current form'.

Specifically, the web page in question was headed 'bemilo - the safest mobile network' and included the claims:

  • '25% of children call or text in a class during school'
  • '33% spend up to 5 hours a day browsing the web on their phone'
  • '8yrs old is the average age children get their first phone' and
  • '1 in 10 receive bullying texts or calls'. In an attached video, a voice-over made the additional claim that 'A third of UK children are sleep deprived as a result of late night texting'.

Web sites: www.carphonewarehouse.com and www.asa.org.uk . The joint response of Carphone Warehouse and Bemilo to the complaint, as quoted in the adjudication, is included in full below.

1. Carphone Warehouse said the claim that 33% of children were sleep deprived was based on a survey of 2000 parents of children between 4 and 16 years of age who had a mobile phone,which was carried out by a polling company [not named] for Bemilo. Parents were asked 'Has your child ever been tired due to late night phone use?'; 14.95% said 'Yes' and 17.35% said they 'Didn't know'. These figures had been added together to make the 33% claim.

2. Carphone Warehouse said the claim that one in ten children was bullied was based on two surveys. In the survey for Bemilo, parents were asked 'Has your child ever been bullied through their mobile phone?' and 7.85% said 'Yes'. They also used a survey carried out in 2005 by a children's charity; 14% of 770 11- to 19-year-olds said they had been threatened or harassed using text messages. They said they averaged these two figures to make the one in ten claim.

3. Carphone Warehouse said the claim that 25% of children called or texted in a class during school was based on the survey for Bemilo. Parents were asked 'Does your child do any of the following whilst in school?'; 14.30% said their child had made or received calls in class and 12.45% said their child had sent or received text messages during class. They said they added these two figures together to make the 25% claim.

4. Carphone Warehouse said the claim that 33% of children spent up to 5 hours a day browsing the web on their phone was based on the survey for Bemilo. Parents were asked 'How often do you estimate your child uses the internet on their mobile, each day?'; 33.55% answered '1-5'.

5. Carphone Warehouse said the claim 'UK's safest mobile network' was based on the fact that Bemilo, unlike any other mobile network in the UK, was a closed network controlled by the parent. They said it was unique in giving parents the ability to introduce specific times when their child could use their phone and for how long. Unlike any other network, parents could also control who their child could contact and who could contact them, as well as screen all SMS messages being sent and received. They were also the only network that could bypass withheld numbers. They said these unique features gave parents the greatest level of control seen amongst UK network providers and were the basis for the claim.

All articles 2006-23 written and edited by Mel Crowther and/or Nick Thomas, 2024- by Nick Thomas, unless otherwise stated.

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