The end may be nigh for misleading UK broadband claims

The irritation of misleading advertising claims in the broadband arena have been growing for some months, but it would appear the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) is about to do something about it.

The Committees of Advertising Practice, part of the ASA, will launch a public consultation to determine whether current advertising practise is fair, and also recommend a course of action to ensure transparency in the future. There is a feeling of ‘have a meeting about a meeting’ about the whole scenario, but at least it is progress. Changes to the way broadband speeds are advertised is long overdue, but it will be a tricky process.

Under current advertising rules, broadband providers can advertise an ‘up to’ speed, as long as it can prove 10% of customer can realize the promise. It’s a common practise throughout the world, but few customers would actually appear to be aware of the nuance. The practise can lead to bad experiences and misleading expectations, but can perhaps partly explain why operators are some of the least trusted brands in the UK.

Research from the ASA and shows consumers are taking the promises as gospel, with the latter claiming 80% of participants find current advertising campaigns to be directly misleading, and on average they believe 66% of customers should be able to receive the advertised speed as opposed to the 10% currently permitted.

“CAP recognises that advertising can play an early and important part in the journey to choosing a broadband provider,” said  Director of CAP, Shahriar Coupal. “We’re determined to ensure the information it provides, including about broadband speed, is trusted and welcomed by consumers.”

The move comes only a matter of weeks after German regulator Bundesnetzagentur outlined plans to hold ISPs accountable for when customers should be compensated for not receiving promised broadband speeds. We did wonder whether this move would cause a couple of ripples elsewhere, but considering the German stereotype for efficiency, you can bet they’ll have it sorted miles before we do.

As part of the consultation, the CAP will investigate which of the following options would be better to offer a more transparent view on promised, and realistic, broadband speeds in advertising campaigns:

  • Peak-time median download speed
  • 24-hour national median download speed
  • Range of peak-time download speeds available to the 20th to 80th percentile of users
  • Range of 24-hour national download speeds available to the 20th to 80th percentile of users

The consultation period will run for 10 weeks, concluding on June 13.

  • Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies

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