ISPs ordered to ditch misleading speed claims

A new ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) ruling means broadband firms will no longer be able to advertise their fast net services based on the speeds just a few customers get.

Currently ISPs are allowed to use headline speeds that only 10 per cent of customers will actually receive. From May 23rd 2018, adverts must be based on what is available to at least 50 per cent of customers at peak times.

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

The ASA looked into consumers’ understanding of broadband speed claims and found that many were confused by headline speeds that they would never actually get in their own homes. The concerns were passed on to the CAP (Committees of Advertising Practice) which consulted with ISPs, consumer groups and Ofcom to find a better way to advertise fast net services. Most agreed that the fairest  way would be to use the average speeds achieved at peak time by at least half of customers.

Director of the Committees of Advertising Practice, Shahriar Coupal, said: “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. Our new standards will give consumers a better understanding of the broadband speeds offered by different providers when deciding to switch providers.”

The UK’s minister for digital Matt Hancock welcomed the change, describing it as a “victory for consumers”.

“I’m delighted to see that Cap is finally changing the way broadband speeds are advertised. Headline ‘up to’ speeds that only need to be available to 10 per cent of consumers are incredibly misleading – customers need clear, concise and accurate information in order to make an informed choice,” Hancock said.

ISPA (Internet Services Providers’ Association) has welcomed changes to the broadband advertising rules. ISPA Chair Andrew Glover said: “ISPA supports today’s change to rules governing the advertising of broadband speeds as an important way of providing consumers with clear and accurate information. The new rules, alongside existing steps of providing speed information at point of sale, the ability to exit a contract and   switching, mean consumers have a number of tools at their disposal to make an informed choice about which ISP or broadband service is right for them”.

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