TalkTalk Revises Speed Checker After ASA Smackdown

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

TalkTalk is ordered to change its broadband speed checker after the ASA said it was misleading customers over line speeds

TalkTalk has been ordered by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to revise its broadband speed checker after a complaint that it was misleading customers by overestimating download speeds.

The complaint centres around the broadband speed checking facility on the TalkTalk website.

Misleading speeds

A customer complained in December after the TalkTalk speed check gave him an estimate of between 2.1Mbps and 5.3Mbps download line speed, with an average estimated line speed of 3.8Mbps.

However, the customer was already a TalkTalk customer and had already been informed that the maximum speed available on his line was less than 2.1 Mbps.

The ASA upheld the complaint, saying the ISP had not made it clear enough that customers could receive lower speeds.

“The ASA noted TalkTalk intended to amend the qualifying text related to the speed checker,” the ASA said in its adjudication. “However, although we acknowledged the ad made clear the speed quoted was an estimated one, we considered the text ‘How do we estimate your speed?’ was not sufficient to make clear that the throughput speeds consumers actually received were likely to vary and that, most of the time, they would be lower than the estimated access line speed range.”

TalkTalk accepted that the wording associated with its broadband speed checker was misleading, telling TechWeekEurope it is now revising the speed checker in line with the ASA’s guidance.

“We are grateful for the guidance provided by the Advertising Standards Authority,” said a TalkTalk spokesperson in an emailed statement. “The prominence of the speed checker on our website demonstrates our commitment to being completely transparent with our customers about the speeds they can achieve.”

Code of practice

The slap on the wrist for TalkTalk comes just days after Ofcom urged ISPs to be more transparent about the information they are providing on broadband speeds, in accordance with the regulator’s Voluntary Code of Practice on Broadband Speeds that was introduced back in 2008.

Ofcom has been repeatedly warning ISPs for a number of years that it will clamp down on ISPs that inflate broadband line speeds. TalkTalk and BT were found by Ofcom to be among the worse ISPs for providing customers with broadband line speeds as soon as possible in the sales process.

TalkTalk also recently topped Ofcom’s list of the the most complained about ISPs.

Growing intolerance

The complaints about broadband line speed indicate the growing sensitivity and intolerance among customers nowadays to poor broadband speeds.

The government is pledging investment to help improve the UK’s broadband network, and BT is in the process of investing £2.5 billion to roll out fibre to around two thirds of UK homes by 2015.

But huge swathes of the UK remain trapped in the broadband slow lane, with little prospect of immediate improvements.

Indeed, recent research from the London School of Economics (LSE) suggested that the government faces a £1.1 billion funding shortfall which must be addressed if the UK is to harness the social and economic benefits of superfast broadband.

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