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Clampdown on ‘misleading’ advertised broadband speeds

Cherry Reynard
Written By:
Cherry Reynard

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has announced a major change to the way broadband speed claims can be advertised.

The advertising supervision body said numerical speed claims in broadband ads should be based on the download speed available to at least 50% of customers at peak time. It should also be made clear that these are average speeds. The CAP also recommended that speed-checking facilities should be promoted in ads wherever possible.

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

The guidance will take effect on 23 May 2018 after a six-month implementation period, and will apply to residential broadband services.

The change comes after research showed consumers may be ‘materially misled’ by the advertising of speed claims based on current guidance.

The CAP concluded that the median peak-time download speed is the most meaningful speed measure to customers because it is easily understood and allows for consumers to make comparisons between different ads that they see. 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.

Shahriar Coupal, director of the CAP, 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. 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.”

Richard Neudegg, a regulation expert at uSwitch.com, said: “Currently 90% of broadband customers can be left disappointed by a service that will seemingly fall short of the speed they’ve seen advertised. Today’s announcement from CAP should reduce the disappointment to 50% of customers from May 2018.

“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.

“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.”