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Public consulted on plan to fix 'misleading' broadband ad rules

Thursday, May 4th 2017 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Broadband providers will have to make sure the speeds they advertise are available to at least 50% of consumers, under proposals published today.

Current guidelines allow providers to advertise ‘up to’ speeds that are achievable for only 10% of their customers.

But the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) said in November that consumers are being misled by the current approach.

And Cable.co.uk’s own research revealed that 80% of broadband customers find the rules on speed claims to be misleading.

The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) has today launched a public consultation on the issue as it plans to introduce new guidance for advertisers.

CAP is proposing either a median download speed measured at peak time or over 24 hours, or a range of download speeds available to the 20th to 80th percentile of users at peak time or over 24 hours.

Director of CAP, Shahriar Coupal, said: “For the next 10 weeks, we’re inviting views on four options for change, and remain open to any other options that better manage consumers’ expectations of the broadband speed they’re likely to receive.

“CAP recognises that advertising can play an early and important part in the journey to choosing a broadband provider.

“We’re determined to ensure the information it provides, including about broadband speed, is trusted and welcomed by consumers.”

Till Sommer, policy lead at the Internet Services Providers’ Association (ISPA), said the inclusion of a speed range combined with a percentile-based user rate could be confusing to customers.

But he welcomed the suggestion that ads should prompt consumers to ask for a more personalised speed estimate.

'A shake-up of standards'

“Our members already provide this kind of information as part of their sales journey and we would also urge consumers to consider other factors such as brand, service quality, speed and the availability of bundled services when choosing their providers.”

Steve Holford, chief customer officer at Hyperoptic, said the new guidelines should force providers to make the distinction between ‘full fibre’ broadband and slower ‘part fibre’ services that still depend on copper wires.

He also said that how speeds are measured is key: “Service providers can only dictate the speed to the home, if the speeds are measured by speed tests by the consumer, the technology and local interference will show an artificially lower speed than is actually delivered.

“For too long broadband providers have been allowed to get away with misleading customers and there has been an ongoing gap between the experience advertised and that actually delivered.

“The ASA consultation is therefore a step in the right direction and will force much needed clarity on the industry, which should result in a shake-up of standards and the way broadband is marketed.”

The CAP consultation runs until 13 July 2017.

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