Which? Wants More Accurate Broadband Advertising

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Consumer watchdog says many ‘up to’ broadband speeds can only be delivered to 10 percent of customers

Consumer watchdog Which? has called for an overhaul of advertising guidelines that allow broadband companies to offer packages that promise ‘up to’ speeds that just ten percent of customers can realistically receive.

Which? has called on industry watchdogs, Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and The Broadcasting Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) to review existing guidelines and ensure that speed claims made in future adverts reflect the actual experience of the majority of customers.

Under the proposals, broadband companies would be forced to quantify ambiguous terms like “superfast”, only make speed claims if they are available to the majority and be upfront about how many people can actually receive the advertised speeds.

Broadband advertising

network fibre surveillance data pipes abstract © kentoh ShutterstockAccording to Which? research, more honest advertising would dramatically change how consumers select a broadband package. Speed is the second most critical factor behind price but becomes three times more important to people when they are informed of the speeds realistically available to 90 percent of customers.

A quarter of respondent said they would choose a different broadband package if they had better information on speed.

“Internet connection is now an essential part of modern life so it beggars belief that providers can sell people short by advertising speeds that only 10 percent of customers could receive,” says Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director. “We want advertising watchdogs to pull the plug on confusing adverts and ensure broadband providers show the speeds the majority of customers will actually get. In the meantime, companies need to be more up-front with customers about the speeds they can expect.”

A number of ISPs have fallen foul of the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) in recent times thanks to misleading advertising. Earlier this year TalkTalk was punished after falsely promising the UK’s cheapest broadband, while EE was banned for making the claim that it has the “most reliable” service because such claims could not be substantiated. BT and Virgin Media have also been chastised in the past for their communications.

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