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New ad rules offer consumers a 'better understanding' of broadband speed claims

Tuesday, May 8th 2018 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

The way broadband speeds are advertised will change later this month, as new rules come into effect that should give you a better idea of the speeds you’ll actually receive when signing up to a broadband deal.

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) announced in November 2017 that broadband packages should be advertised using the average speed available to the majority of customers at peak time.

Until now, guidance from the ASA has meant that headline speeds mentioned in broadband ads only had to be achievable by 10% of users.

Providers were given six months to get their affairs in order by the ASA but that grace period ends on 23 May so for the majority of ISPs (internet service providers) the times they are a-changin’.

Sky deserves credit for beating the ASA to the punch, as it were. The provider started advertising the average speeds received by its customers back in December 2016, alongside the ‘up to’ speeds we’ve grown used to seeing.

30 days to improve speeds

In practical terms, instead of seeing a standard broadband package advertised as offering “up to 17Mbps” you’ll see the download speed available to at least 50% of users at peak time. In Sky’s case, this is 11Mbps for its Sky Broadband Unlimited package.

Shariar Coupal, director of the ASA’s sister organisation the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) said: “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.”

Earlier this year, Ofcom announced changes to its code of practice that would result in consumers getting better information about the service they’re likely to receive when signing up to a broadband contract.

These include the provision of a minimum guaranteed speed at the point of sale, with providers given a month to improve things if a customer’s speed drops below that promised level. If speeds do not improve, you’ll be allowed to walk away from your contract penalty-free.

For the first time, this right to exit a contract will also apply to landline and TV packages bought alongside broadband so if you do end up walking away you’ll be able to shop around for a new TV and broadband deal without worrying about cancellation fees.

Ofcom’ new requirements will come into force on 1 March 2019, with providers given 12 months to make the necessary changes.

Vodafone has already committed to providing a minimum guaranteed speed for its fibre broadband customers, promising compensation in the form of money off your bill when speeds dip below 25Mbps for Superfast 1 customers and 55Mbps for those on the Superfast 2 package.

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