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ASA to review the way broadband speeds are advertised

Friday, May 27th 2016 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

The advertising watchdog is to test consumers’ understanding of the broadband speed claims made in ads.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Committees for Advertising Practice (CAP) will research the claims made by providers and the expectations consumers have based on them.

Currently, providers can advertise headline speeds as long as they are preceded by the words ‘up to’ and are achievable by at least 10% of customers.

Ads for fibre-based services must also include a disclaimer making it clear that speed vary significantly depending on the distance between their property and the telephone exchange or street cabinet.

These rules are based on guidance introduced by CAP following a public consultation in 2011.

Since the introduction of the guidance, complaints to the ASA about broadband speed advertising have fallen by 60% – but concerns remain that consumers are misled by claims about speed.

ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: “As an evidence-based regulator, we want to make sure our approach is underpinned by the experience of real people.

“While complaints to the ASA about broadband speed claims have reduced considerably over recent years, we’re taking action to respond to the concerns by testing our approach through consumer research.”

The ASA and CAP will publish their findings in the early autumn. CAP will then determine whether there needs to be any change to the current guidance.

Whatever the outcome of the latest investigation, the way broadband packages are advertised is going to change later this year.

'Choices'

Earlier this month, the ASA announced new rules surrounding the way broadband package prices are advertised.

From 31 October, providers will have to show all-inclusive up-front and monthly costs in ads that include price claims.

They will also have to give greater prominence to contract length, up-front costs and any post-discount pricing.

Speaking at the time, Mr Parker, said: “We recognise the importance of broadband services to people's lives at work and at home.

“The findings of our research, and other factors we took into account, showed the way prices have been presented in broadband ads is likely to confuse and mislead customers.

“This new tougher approach has been developed to make sure consumers are not misled and get the information they need to make well-informed choices.”

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