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ASA tells BT to give accurate broadband speed estimates

Snail on keyboard

An Advertising Standards Authority ruling has set some hares running in the world of broadband. The ASA upheld a complaint from a BT customer who claimed they were misled as to the speed they could achieve.

This is an interesting development, particularly for the 28,000 of you who have signed our Broadband Speed Guaranteed petition.

The ASA argued that the ‘availability checker’ on BT’s website, which gives you an estimate of the speeds you can expect at your address, amounts to a significant persuasive factor in a prospective customer deciding whether they’ll opt for BT broadband. Only, in the case of the person complaining, they couldn’t achieve the speeds they were quoted at their address. BT’s advertising on its website was therefore deemed misleading in the eyes of the ASA.

As a result, the ASA has told BT that its availability checker must provide accurate information.

Give us speed guaranteed

Our campaign calls on broadband providers to give accurate and personalised speed estimates at the point of sale, and for this to be put in writing. When you’re in the process of committing to a long-term (and sometimes very expensive) contract, you ought to be able to rely on the information you’re being given.

And although there’s no guarantee that you’ll always be able to receive the maximum speed you were offered, your provider should give you a realistic range. If you can’t regularly achieve speeds within this range, you should be let out of your contract penalty-free.

Have you ever checked your predicted broadband speeds on a providers’ website only to find out that, in reality, your speeds are much lower? Are you paying for speeds you’re just not getting?


Although I havent seen the full details of the particular case quoted by ASA, I would have thought a “best estimate” of the broadband speed available at a particular address is all that is available.
What are ISPs supposed to do if they havent any active data for an existing broadband connection ?
Accurate figures would require a test broadband connection to be made and the data then recorded for every property !

I can understand ASA’s concern if there are significant flaws in the methods used to make the estimates.


Hi rarrar

You’re right, they are never going to be able to test every single connection in every single property, that would be prohibitively expensive! However, what we want to see is an estimate at the outset, as accurate as possible (a range and a pin-point estimate of a speed you can expect to receive regularly) and then what happens after that is really important. If you find, at any point in the contract not just in the first few weeks or months, that the speeds you’re getting are below the bottom end of the range you were given, you should be allowed out. If providers are going to advertise these superfast speeds then it has to be possible for customers to get out of their contracts if they can’t achieve those speeds.

Louisa L says:
9 May 2014

The other thing which is very important to consider is in perhaps more rural areas where such things as satellite or long range wifi (wimax for example) are installed and you are told the speeds you would get before commiting yourself to sometimes a minimum year’s contract AND a very costly installation for for equipment. It is all too easy for these companies to make incredible profits on the installation alone, and then not only to lock you into the contract for a year but then to provide the most awful service and the customer should be able to not only get out of the contract but get a refund on the installation fee. Some of these companies really do get customers over a barrel with upfront payments and it really is a con if they’re not providing the promised service

Tink says:
8 May 2014

It’s all fair and good being allowed out of contract if you’re not getting the speeds you should be getting, but ultimately those in rural areas with no access to fast broadband it’s just tough. All the DSL providers rely on BT’s network so moving from one provider to another won’t make a blind bit of difference, and unfortunately this is the case for around three quarters of the UK.


Spot on Tink
The maximum speed is set by the link to the exchange and really shouldnt change over time.
However how much bandwidth an ISP provides from the exchange to the www is down to how much money they spend and affects peak time speed. So changing ISP can improve peak time speed on a BT network connection.


My ISP used to claim speeds ‘up to 24 Mbps’, which annoyed me because the best speed I achieved was about 7 Mbps download. I complained that the ISP was guilty of misrepresentation and many others complained too.

Now the 24 Mbps claim has been dropped and the ISPs postcode checker advises me that a speed of 9 Mbps is the average for my area, with a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 11.5 Mbps. I have stopped complaining, even though the speed I achieve is towards the lower end of the range promised. I would be even more impressed if the ISP told me to expect 5 Mbps, since I would be achieving more than expected.

It is time that ASA banned all advertising that includes ‘up to’ claims.

Tink says:
9 May 2014

Wavechange – this is exactly the problem, if they tell you you’re going to 5Mb and you get 8Mb you’d be delighted. So what would stop the ISPs deliberately giving you a slower speed estimate to avoid a complaint from a customer or the ASA?

KevinP says:
9 May 2014

Why is that a problem? If ISPs predicted at the lower end and you achieved better then you are going to be a happy chappy. If I go to the pub and order a pint, pay for a pint and get a pint and a half I don’t see that as a problem 🙂 What I don’t want is to order a pint and only get half a pint!