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Which? campaign win: Broadband providers told to advertise more realistic speeds

Now speeds claimed must be available to 50% of customers – not 10%

Which? campaign win: Broadband providers told to advertise more realistic speeds

The body that writes and maintains the UK’s advertising codes has ordered broadband providers to change the way they promote their services, warning that current practices could mislead customers.

After reviewing speed claims currently made by broadband providers, the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) has told providers that all ‘up to’ speed claims should be available to at least 50% of customers at peak times. Current standards mean claims can be available to a minimum of just 10% of customers.

The change will mean that people will have a clearer idea of the speed they’re likely to receive if they sign up to that package. The tougher rules will be introduced in May 2018.

Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Products and Services, said:

‘Millions of households are currently experiencing broadband speeds that just don’t live up to their expectations, and unrealistic adverts showing speeds you’re never likely to get don’t help.

‘Which? has been campaigning for action on this, so it is good to see people may finally see the speeds they could achieve before they sign up to a deal.’

This is also a win for our Broadband Speed Guaranteed campaign, supported by more than 120,000 people who signed our petition calling for broadband providers to be more transparent with their advertising.

Our campaign to make speed claims clearer

Previously CAP allowed providers to advertise packages using ‘up to’ speed claims when the speeds were available to just 10% of customers. This meant that a package with an advertised speed of ‘up to 76Mbps’ (for example) could have lower speeds for 90% of customers. We started our Broadband Speed Guaranteed campaign in 2013, asking advertising watchdogs to pull the plug on ads that promised people speeds that the majority of them would not get.

Which? urged the advertising watchdog to review its guidance to providers, which led to a consultation on a range of different options to crack down on misleading advertising. During the consultation, Which? conducted research to test the expectations people have when faced with different speed descriptions. We found that people expected to receive a speed that’s very close to the one advertised. Which? recommended that CAP should implement a peak-time average for speed claims, which has been accepted and will require providers to adopt it from May next year.

The new rules will see advertisements referring to ‘average speeds’ which finally reflect what you’re likely to receive. In its announcement, the CAP said the Advertising Standards Authority had conducted research into consumer understanding of broadband speed claims and found that customers were likely to be misled by the current practices, with most thinking they were likely to receive a speed close to that claimed in advertising, despite this not being the case.

CAP said the change would give consumers a better understanding of the speeds offered by different providers. It also recommends that providers promote speed checking services in their ads.

Now it’s time to Fix Bad Broadband

While the changes announced by CAP will mean you’ll get a clearer idea of the speed you’ll received if you take out a contract from May next year, it may be cold comfort if you’re currently struggling with sluggish internet. Our Fix Bad Broadband campaign calls on providers to do more to fix the problems people suffer with their home internet and deliver the speeds they’ve promised.

Our free speed checker will allow you to find out what broadband speed you’re actually getting. It will help you compare the speed you receive with what you’ve been told you can expect by your internet service provider. If you’re unhappy with your broadband speed, you can also use our broadband complaint tool to quickly make a formal complaint to your provider or read our tips on ways you can speed up slow connections.

What do you think of the proposed changes? Let us know by joining the conversation.

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