Unfair broadband advertising to be banned

3 March 2011

Misleading adverts about broadband speeds may soon be banned after Ofcom slammed providers' unfair practices.  

According to Ofcom, the average UK broadband speed is 6.2Mbits per second yet the average advertised speed is 13.8Mbit/s.

The industry watchdog has recommended that speeds quoted in broadband advertising should be based on a typical speed range.

It argues that a typical speed range gives consumers a clearer idea of what speed they can expect unlike current advertisements, which display the best possible speed.

"It is important that the rules around broadband advertising change so that consumers are able to make more informed decisions based on the adverts they see, and that advertisers are able to communicate more clearly how their products compare to others in the market," says Ofcom chief executive, Ed Richards.

In October last year Moneywise launched its broadband campaign. It looked into unfair practices and part of its mission statement called for transparency on actual speeds.

Moneywise's campaign called for a ban on the use of the phrase 'up to' in advertising and for the term 'average speed' to be used instead.

Jon James, executive director of broadband at Virgin Media, welcomes Ofcom's report and says that Virgin Media have been calling for a change in advertising for years now:

"Ofcom's latest report is yet another damning indictment that consumers continue to be treated like mugs and misled by internet service providers that simply cannot deliver on their advertised speed claims."

"Broadband providers have to base their speed claims on the typical real world speeds being delivered to customers and we support Ofcom's call for all ISPs to publish the typical real world speeds they're delivering to customers so people know exactly what to expect and what they're paying for."

Read: Five ways to improve your broadband speed

Ofcom's report is based on research into the seven largest internet service providers on the market. Its research looked at 11 packages available and the average download speed over 24 hours and also during peak usage times, between 8–10pm weekdays.

Its research shows that some technologies are better equipped to deliver faster broadband. Cable - and to a lesser degree fibre optic services - deliver the best speeds while older copper–based ADSL services typically offer speeds much lower than advertised.

Ofcom's research reveals that Virgin Media's cable services, available to 48% of the UK population, delivered 90–96% of advertised speeds, for example. Its Virgin Media 'up to' 10Mbit/s delivered 9.5 to 9.7Mbit/s over 24 hours.

In contrast, over 24 hours, Plusnet's 'up to' 8Mbit/s package only delivered 3.4 to 4.4Mbit/s and Orange 'up to' 8 Mbit/s delivered a similar 3.3 to 4.3 Mbit/s.

The great broadband rip-off

In response to the findings an Orange spokesperson says:

"Orange has played an active role in Ofcom's development of its broadband speed's code of practice, and we are working with the Advertising Standards Authority and Ofcom to review how broadband speeds are currently advertised."

"We are also committed to continually improving our own broadband speed delivery, so it's frustrating to see the outcome of this research."

Jamie Ford, chief executive officer for Plusnet, says the quality of users' experience is down to more than speed:

"While an increase in speed can certainly enable consumers, internet users should be reminded that a number of factors can compromise speed including the distance from your telephone exchanges, internal wiring within property and the age of your hardware."
Plusnet has just announced it will attempt to double its headline broadband speeds for customers with immediate effect:
Ford adds: "We have made a significant investment to upgrade our network in order to give our customers a better broadband service."

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