With up to speed claims being used more than ever in broadband adverts, an urgent change is needed by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to end the confusion it’s causing consumers. With more and more of us streaming and downloading films and music – as well as working from home – the expectations we have for our broadband are increasing, along with our needs. Yet when you’re looking around for a broadband provider that can give you a faster speed, it could leave you disappointed. Many adverts use speed claims to try and persuade us to sign up to their offer. Yet, the reality is that often the broadband speeds offered can often only be accessed by a relatively small minority.
This is because back in 2012, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), introduced rules stating that only 10% of all customers have to be able to access the maximum advertised speed. New research we conducted shows that up to speed claims in broadband newspaper adverts are rife. Before the rules came in, only around one in ten (12%) adverts included an up to speed claim, but this rocketed to two thirds (68%) between April 2015 and March 2016. It s now time to do away with the confusing 10% rule. The ASA recognises that there’s an issue and just last week announced a new research project to test consumers understanding and expectations of advertised claims.
The findings will be announced in the autumn and should help CAP to determine whether there needs to be a change. There’s no doubt in our mind that this research must lead to new rules where the majority of customers can get the speed advertised. And many in the broadband industry agree. Some companies would like to be much more upfront about the realistic speeds their customers can get. Sadly with the current rules they run the risk of falling behind their competitors if they don t promote faster up to speeds.
This further underlines why a change is needed: clearer advertising rules would help broadband providers to help customers to avoid disappointment and make a much better choice. We know from previous research that 9 in 10 people consider speed an important factor when choosing a broadband provider and a staggering 15.4 million households were not getting the advertised headline speeds on their broadband packages. This is a serious problem facing this industry and one that must be addressed soon.
We have support from the Department for Culture Media & Sport (DCMS), as well as Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey, who pledged his backing last week by saying that advertised broadband speeds are misleading and it s not right that only a minority can access the highest speeds on the market. So we look forward to seeing the findings from the ASA’s research project and call on the regulator to revisit its advertising rules to ensure that companies can only advertise up to speeds that are available to the majority of their customers, not just 10%. We want to see a swift move to new rules that ensure people get the broadband speeds they deserve.