ISPs forced to ditch 'misleading' broadband adverts

Marcus Newton
November 24, 2017

The new guidance is set to take effect from 23 May 2018 after a six-month implementation period to ensure providers become compliant.

Existing rules allow firms to advertise their headline speeds that only one tenth of their customers receive.

The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) announced on Thursday that, from next year, ISPs will only be able to advertise "average" download speeds if at least 50 per cent of customers are able to receive them during the peak times of 8pm and 10pm. "Research commissioned by the ASA persuades us that tougher standards are needed to prevent consumers from being misled by advertised broadband speed claims".

In addition to the average, CAP is also encouraging ISPs to promote speed checkers in their adverts, so users could go and check their own speeds for themselves and see what they could get from a new service. As peak time is when traffic volumes are highest and traffic management policies are most likely to apply, a peak-time measure provides a better indication of the actual speeds consumers are likely to experience.

Committees of Advertising Practice director 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".

The UK's minister for digital Matt Hancock welcomed the change, describing it as a "victory for consumers".

"While 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".

Previously broadband providers could advertise "up to" speeds as long as they were available to at least 10% of customers.

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The changes will have a drastic impact on the figures that providers are able to advertise.

A major change to the way broadband speed claims are advertised is set to arrive in the United Kingdom, and it should make broadband speed adverts much more realistic.

Using the term "fibre broadband" in adverts for part-fibre services is not "materially misleading", the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has said.

CAP added that the options are "intended to better manage consumers' expectations of the broadband speed they're likely to receive from different broadband providers, with each of them offering tougher standards for broadband speed claims in ads than the current position".

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.

But what is peak time for broadband?

"As a result, some providers may elect to refuse service to customers likely to get speeds at the slower end of the scale, which restricts provider choice".

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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