ASA cracks down on misleading broadband speed claims

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has changed the rules governing the way that broadband speed claims can be advertised.

From 23 May 2018, broadband suppliers will no longer be able to advertise their services based on speeds that only a few customers actually get.

Until now, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have been able to advertise "up to" speeds that were only available to 10% of customers. From next year, they must advertise "average" download speeds that are available to at least 50% of customers at peak times.

Minister for digital Matt Hancock has described the change as a "victory for consumers". He said: "Headline 'up to' speeds that only need to be available to 10% of consumers are incredibly misleading - customers need clear, concise and accurate information in order to make an informed choice."

Advertised speeds are unlikely to fall immediately; by April 2018, Andrew Ferguson, editor of ThinkBroadband, has predicted that packages previously advertised as up to 38Mbps will drop to 24 to 30Mbps; and those currently marketed at up to 76Mbps are likely to be advertised at around 50Mbps under the new rules.

Dave Millett, of telecoms brokerage Equinox, said: "Overall the news is very welcome - it is something we have been campaigning about and highlighting for several years … but why do we have to wait five months for it to come into effect? Many may end up signing themselves into long-term contracts based on the continued use of these misleading claims."

Millett added: "We believe that before any customer signs they should be told the actual expected speed for their address and that should form part of the contract. This will also mean that people who will receive a very slow speed with a supplier will know to look elsewhere - this will prompt suppliers to up their game by increasing speeds, or reducing prices for slower speed areas - or risk losing customers. Why should customers who get, say, less than half the average speed pay the same as those getting the top speeds?"

The new rules only apply to residential customers at present.

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