I’m reporting here on a story of an Advertising Standards Authority complaint that has been brought against Tellurium Q by The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
The complaint notification I’ve seen, states ; “On a webpage with the heading “Tellurium Q Statement”, the text stated; “By thinking of cables in this way we can get closer to the goal of preserving the relative phase relationship in a signal meaning that you hear the most transparent, natural sound possible”.
The issue at hand for deliberation by the ASA, was whether the claim of preserving the relative phase relationship would audibly lead to better sound, and if this was misleading and could be substantiated. In other words, that preserved phase relationships led to audibly better results in an objective sense, for use of such advertising to be possible.
Following the complaint, the ASA considered that further investigation was needed, after the complainant challenged whether the statement was misleading and could be substantiated.
The ASA’s CAP code is the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct and Promotional Marketing and is the rule book for non-broadcast advertisements, sales promotions and direct marketing communications in the UK.
Under CAP code 3 ; ‘Misleading Advertising’, general rule 3.1 requires that marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
As a point of ‘Substantiation’ under rule 3.7 ; “Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation.”
And under ‘Exaggeration’ rule 3.11; “Marketing communications must not mislead consumers by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product”
The ASA dealt with the complaint informally without going through their formal investigative process. The ASA have powers to take enforcement action if marketeers don’t yield to their reasonable requests in accordance with the regulations. Tellurium Q chose not to defend their claim and amended the advertisement to remove it.
The advertisement has been changed, in part to ; “According to Bell Labs way back in 1930 working on phase distortion and its impact on speech, they found that when comparing a system that had negligible phase distortion with one that had, “it is noticed that the distorted speech is accompanied by certain audible effects which appear to be extraneous to the speech and transient in character”
This is a subtle difference in emphasis – Tellurium Q are now quoting the use of a 1930’s telephone study which, they say, showed/shows that phase distortion effects audibility and this is an aim of their products. Clearly a different one to preserving phase relationships meaning better audio, in other words a much more positive assertion as a reason to buy.
It is not for me to make comments here on whether the use of the technical language is scientifically justified or not, for this is a topic that will require a much more in depth look. Rather, that this judgement by the ASA serves as a reminder that HiFi marketeers must be able to objectively substantiate technical points in selling products, notwithstanding the fact that such similar complaints have been made against UK HiFi cable firms before. Clearly Tellurium Q didn’t wish to support their claim, which was then removed. This is in the context that selling HiFi open to non objective judgements, can, and clearly will, fall foul of UK ASA rules. Obviously there are mutual vested interests in ensuring compliance as well as bringing such matters to the attention of consumers who should be alive to un-substantiated claims.
As ever, it always makes sense to make judgements yourself and see the value in HiFi products based primarily on price, features, looks and quite obviously, sonic qualities. Read reviews as guidance with comparisons, but ultimately use your number 1 eardrum.
Tellurium Q were approached for written comment but, thus far, have not responded. Should they do so the article will be amended accordingly.