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Eight out of 10 Brits duped by misleading broadband advertising

  • 80% of consumers find the way broadband speeds are currently advertised misleading
  • Currently, only 10% of consumers have to be able to receive the advertised 'up to' speed
  • On average, Brits believe at least two thirds should be able to receive the 'up to' speed for it to be legitimately advertised
  • Consumer telecoms expert Dan Howdle says of the research: "Broadband remains the only service you can buy without knowing what it is you're actually going to get. The current system is a lucky dip where everyone pays the same no matter what mystery item they ultimately pull out.

Friday 10 February 2017: The vast majority of UK consumers find the way broadband speeds are advertised to be misleading, research by Ofcom-accredited broadband comparison site Cable.co.uk reveals.

80% of the 2,000 consumers interviewed by Cable.co.uk think the way broadband speeds are advertised is misleading, with 58% finding them 'very misleading' and 22% saying they are 'somewhat misleading'.

Current guidelines permit broadband providers to advertise 'up to' speeds that are achievable by only 10% of customers. However, consumers feel that at least two thirds (66%) should be able to receive the top speed in order for it to be legitimately used in advertising.

Those aged over 45 are most likely to consider broadband advertising misleading, with 65% stating they find the current system 'very misleading' and 20% 'somewhat misleading'.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has called for a change to the way broadband speeds are advertised to ensure consumers are not misled, and the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) is currently reviewing its guidance to advertisers on broadband speed claims. CAP is due to publish a report later this year.

Commenting on the findings of Ombudsman Services' report, Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms expert at Ofcom accredited broadband, TV and mobile comparison site Cable.co.uk, says:

"Broadband remains the only service you can buy without knowing what it is you're actually going to get. The current system is a lucky dip where everyone pays the same no matter what mystery item they ultimately pull out."

“Currently, you have to find yourself in the bottom 10% speed-wise in order to exit a 12 or 18-month contract without paying substantial cancellation fees. It's a shocking state of affairs that the ASA is quite rightly looking into carefully."

“You should always read the small print when signing up to a new broadband deal, being sure to make yourself aware of the cooling-off period during which you can leave free of charge. However, it should be noted that since the majority of UK broadband providers operate on the Openreach network, switching to another provider on the same network is unlikely to yield better results"

Notes to editors

The full data sets, split by gender, age and region are available upon request

Cable.co.uk interviewed 2,000 UK broadband customers across an even sample of region, gender, age and broadband provider

Those who were interviewed were the main or joint decision makers in their household

In return for using our research and or commentary on UK telecoms issues, we would deeply appreciate a link to this page or Cable.co.uk

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What is Cable.co.uk?

Cable.co.uk is a broadband, TV and phone comparator, unique news source and consumer champion.

Dan Howdle has been plugged into the attitudes of UK broadband, TV and mobile customers for over two decades. Having spent 12 years at the coalface of consumer telecoms research, initiating and running projects both nationally and internationally on behalf of the biggest players in the industry. Dan is now Director of Communications and in-house consumer telecoms expert for Cable.co.uk.

An experienced broadcaster, commentator and writer who frequently appears on BBC TV and radio, ITV, Sky and in the national papers and their websites, Dan leads a team of journalists and communications folk who spend their days researching and reporting on problems faced by UK broadband, TV and mobile customers both on an individual and macro level.

Dan campaigns on many issues currently facing consumers of broadband, TV and mobile products in the UK. These include, but are not limited to: Rural broadband provision; mobile coverage; broadband, TV and mobile customer contract issues; broadband and mobile broadband speeds; switching and money-saving; infrastructural challenges; pricing, changes and structures; shifts in technology and the marketplace; telecoms regulation, policy and law; fines, adjudications and policy changes; mergers and closures of UK providers; annual financials and more.

Dan has advised Ofcom on issues surrounding service quality. He also administers and adjudicates the yearly Broadband Service Quality Awards and sits on the panel of judges for the Internet Service Providers Association annual awards.

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