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.
Following a public consultation, broadband providers will no longer be permitted to claim “up to” line speeds in advertising and instead must describe “average” speeds.
These average speeds must be based on the download speed available to at least 50% of customers at peak time.
The new guidance is set to take effect from 23 May 2018 after a six-month implementation period to ensure providers become compliant.
Current guidance only demands that 10% of customers should experience the advertised speed, meaning the vast majority of users could be achieving line speeds of under what providers have promised in their adverts. The ASA found that in many cases consumers are likely to be misled by claims of speeds “up to” certain levels.
Director of the committees of advertising practice, Shahriar Coupal says: “There are a lot of factors that affect the broadband speed a customer is going to get in their own 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 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.”
‘Advertising speeds only a fraction of customers can receive helps no one’
Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms analyst at broadband advice site Cable.co.uk, comments: "Up until now, broadband has been the only utility you can buy without knowing precisely what it is you're going to get. The speeds advertised are the expectation you set, no matter how you try to qualify them. Advertising speeds only a fraction of customers can receive helps no one – it damages provider reputation and stokes fury among customers. Adding the words 'up to' was never going to cut it.
"Today's ruling means advertised speeds are going to come down to more closely match the expectations of the average customer by April/May next year. Up until now, the most common complaint from broadband customers concerns receiving less than what they thought they were going to get. This will go a long way to alleviating that most persistent of gripes.
"We should also see some variation in the speeds offered by different providers going forward, allowing consumers to make a more informed choice when switching to a new broadband deal. However, megabits continue to be an abstract number for the majority, and the industry still needs to work harder to promote greater understanding in how those numbers apply to everyday use."