ISPs must ensure half of punters get advertised max speeds

Proposals by UK watchdog call for further crackdown on misleading ads

Broadband providers may have to ensure at least half of customers can receive advertised top line speeds, under a proposed crackdown on consumers being misled.

Current standards require speeds quoted in broadband adverts to apply to a minimum of 10 per cent of all customers, providing they include the words "up to".

It follows research which found up to 75 per cent of households are paying for advertised broadband speeds they have never received.

The Committee of Advertising Practice, which works alongside the Advertising Standards Agency, has today proposed a series of four different options to strengthen the standards around broadband speed claims.

These also include having peak-time median download speeds; 24-hour national median download speeds; a range of peak-time download speed to the 20th to 80th percentile of users; and a range of 24-hour national download speeds available to the 20th to 80th percentile of users.

However, the proposals do not appear to consider upload speeds.

Director of CAP Shahriar Coupal said: “Research commissioned by the ASA persuades us that tougher standards are needed to prevent consumers from being misled by advertised broadband speed claims. For the next 10 weeks, we’re inviting views on four options for change, and remain open to any other options that better manage consumers’ expectations of the broadband speed they’re likely to receive.

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

Digital minister Matt Hancock said: "I'm delighted that rules on how broadband speeds are advertised are to be tightened up. So-called 'up to' speeds that in the past only needed to be available to 10 per cent of consumers are incredibly misleading, customers need clear, concise and accurate information in order to make an informed choice. In the past, too many people haven't been getting the speeds they thought they signed up for, and I'm pleased this is being put right."

But Till Sommer, policy lead at the Internet Service Providers Association, said that proposals to require the inclusion of a speed range are likely to be confusing to consumers, particularly if combined with a percentile-based user rate.

He said: "We will now be working closely with our members to study the alternative options in detail and to ensure that the new broadband advertising standards provide consumers with a clear expectation of the speeds they are likely to receive, while also supporting the growth and development of the already very competitive and dynamic broadband market in the UK.”

The consultation will close on 13 July 2017. ®

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