Consumer: Is it time to pull plug on broadband speed ads?

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A consumer group has called for stricter rules on broadband advertising that allow companies to promise “up to” speeds that are actually guaranteed for just one in 10 customers.

Which? said it is time for the advertising watchdog to update its guidelines after finding just 12 per cent of consumers are aware of the rule that speeds quoted in broadband adverts need only apply to a minimum of 10 per cent of customers.

A survey for Which? found consumers consider speed to be the second most important factor influencing their choice of broadband deal, beaten only by price.

Some 88 per cent believed speed should be shown in ads but just 5 per cent agreed the way it is currently advertised is the clearest option.

The consumer group tested how speeds are presented to consumers and found a quarter of them would choose a different deal if they had better information.

Speed also becomes around three times more important to people when choosing a broadband package when it is presented based on the speed 90 per cent of customers would receive, rather than 10 per cent.

Which? said it wants advertised broadband speeds to more closely match the actual experience of the majority of customers.

It has called on the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) to review guidelines on claims made in broadband ads to require all those making speed claims like “superfast” to quantify them, advertised speeds to be available to the majority of customers, not the minority, and providers to be “up-front” about how many people can actually get the advertised speed.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “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 per cent of customers could receive.

“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. Companies need to be more up-front with customers about the speeds they can expect.”

A spokesman for the Advertising Standards Authority said: “The rules and guidance surrounding broadband advertising speed claims, which were subject to a comprehensive public consultation, require ads to be clear and avoid misleading consumers. The ASA doesn’t receive many complaints about broadband ads, but the Committees of Advertising Practice will listen to concerns carefully.”

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