Clampdown on broadband speed ads

November 30, 2017

Have you been swayed by an internet provider over their speeds, only to find that your broadband doesn’t reach those speeds? If so, you’re not alone.

Consumers have long been complaining about their broadband connections being slower than advertised, but new guidelines will mean consumers have more accurate information.

Following an investigation into consumers’ understanding of broadband speed claims, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found that headline speeds confused many, according to BBC News.

The ASA passed these concerns on to the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP), which then consulted with internet service providers (ISPs), consumer groups, and Ofcom.

A crackdown on misleading claims will now mean that broadband providers can only advertise the average speed of their service, which will show download speeds that are available to at least 50% of their customers at peak time. At the moment, the Guardian notes, they are allowed to promote an “up to” speed that is available to at least 10% of customers.

When possible, ISPs will also have to promote speed-checking facilities in their ads, enabling consumers to test the speeds they would likely receive from any given service and make an informed decision.

The rules will come into effect on 23 May 2018, following a six-month implementation period, and will only apply to ads promoting residential internet services.

Director of CAP, Shahriar Coupal, commented: “There are a lot of factors that affect the broadband speed a customer is going to get in their home – from technology to geography, to how a household uses broadband.

“While we know these factors mean some people will get significantly slower speeds than others – when it comes to our broadband ads our new standards will give consumers a better understanding of the broadband speeds offered by different providers when deciding to switch providers.

“We continually review our standards to make sure they reflect consumers’ experiences, the technology available and the evidence base to make sure our standards are in the right place. Following extensive research and consultation, we hope our new standards will improve customer confidence in future ads.”

The move has been welcomed by government and ISPs. However, price comparison service uSwitch.com said there was still a need for broadband providers to offer customers more information about the speeds in their local area.

Head of regulation at the site, Richard Neudegg, told the Guardian: “Whilst this change might reduce the number of consumers that feel let down, the reality is that a national advert can never accurately communicate broadband speeds because speeds are so specific to your individual property.

“In order for the industry to deliver broadband services that better align with consumer expectations, providers need to allow for far more straightforward ways to quickly and easily compare the services and speeds available from different suppliers at their own home, side-by-side.”

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