ASA cracks down on misleading broadband speed claims

Andrew Cummings
November 23, 2017

Broadband customers who feel they're not getting the advertised download speed will be relieved to hear that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has today announced a crackdown on how internet providers can promote their line speeds.

Instead providers will have to advertise speeds that at least 50 per cent of its customers can get at peak times.

Currently ISPs are allowed to use headline speeds that only 10 per cent of customers will actually receive.

"Similarly, we're improving the information people get before taking out a broadband contract".

According to a report by the watchdog, households on a standard broadband deal offering speeds of up to 17Mbps often receive speeds of just 9.8Mbps in the evening between 8 and 10pm, when most people use the internet. Most agreed that the fairest way would be to use the average speeds achieved at peak time by at least half of customers.

Having considered all of the evidence provided during the review, we've concluded that it is not materially misleading to describe broadband services that use fibre-optic cables for only part of the connection to consumers' homes as "fibre broadband".

"While we know these factors mean some people will get significantly slower speeds than others; when it comes to broadband ads, our new standards will give consumers a better understanding of the broadband speeds offered by different providers when deciding to switch providers". "This will go a long way to alleviating that most persistent of gripes".

Services now marketed at up to 76Mbps are likely to be in the 45 to 55Mbps region, he added, while those advertised as up to 17Mbps could fall as low as 6Mbps under the new rules.

"To give some idea of the scale of the changes for the partial fibre (FTTC) services now sold as up to 38Mbps, we are expecting to see adverts featuring speeds in the 24 to 30Mbps region then up to 76Mbps services should be in the 45 to 55Mbps region", said Ferguson.

Research commissioned by the ASA found that the current regulatory standards were likely to mislead consumers.

CAP said the median peak-time download speed was the most meaningful measure for consumers at it was easily understood and allowed for comparisons between different ads, while a 24-hour measurement had the potential to mislead by not providing an indication of the speed customers were likely to receive at the time when traffic is heaviest.

Consumers may interpret a range as the speed they are likely to get individually, as opposed to the range that consumers generally are likely to get, and a range doesn't tell consumers where in the range they fall, if at all.

It follows research that suggested broadband advertising can be misleading for consumers.

He added that the CAP was "determined to ensure the information it provides, including about broadband speed, is trusted and welcomed by consumers".

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