/ Technology

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?

perseus1947 says:
20 May 2014

Hello everyone, I am a new subscriber to Which and I hope you will find this post interesting, despite it being very lengthy, for which I aplogise

I started subscribing to Orange before they changed to EE from Orange & T-Mobile but as they now have I am assuming I am an EE customer and no longer with Orange, or so it appears.

Until recently I was extremely pleased with Orange/EE and any problem I had was resolved with the minimum of fuss, so much so that I advised friends & relatives to switch to Orange/EE, which some did.

I now have two issues with this company.

1) In Apr I enquired about the new superfast broadband now available to me and was informed that I would receive 74mbps plus. On the strength of this information I entered into a new 18 month contract with them to get the faster speed. At the time I was getting 18mbps via an ADSL connection.

Prior to signing up I explained that I used a wired desktop which required an adaptor in order for the signal to be transferred from the router to the adaptor & into my wired desktop and I also had a wireless laptop, Nook Tablet, Kindle & Internet access on my DVD Player. I was concerned about whether the fact that I had to use an adpator would slow down the speed on my desktop. I was assured that it would not.

On 26 Mar 14 my upgrade took effect and I found that not only was I not getting the speeds promised but was getting less than half on occasions. Equally sometimes I did get at least 74mbps but this was extremely rare and did not last for long.

I contacted EE who thought it was a router problem so they sent another one. This made no difference.

My wireless laptop was receiving even slower speeds.

Even after EE gained remote access and tweaked my router the problem still continued.

I put in a complaint and have spoken to EE on the phone, via online live chat and email but the problem still exists.

Recently I was told that because I use an adaptor (which is one of the best on the market) I am very unlikely to get the speeds promised. I told them that I had specifically asked about this prior to upgrading and was told it would make no difference to speed. I have since contacted other ISPs and have been assured that using an adaptor would not lower the speeds.

I then asked if using an adaptor on my wired desktop would limit my speeds why was it that my wireless laptop was poviding even slower speeds than my desktop?

No answer came the stern reply.

Yesterday I was told that the ‘up to’ 74mbps only applies if the desktop is permanently connected via an Ethernet cable.

When I explained that I am on very rare occasions receiving 74mbps on my desktop without the Ethernet cable installed he was unable to answer this question. The only time I have received 74mbps on my laptop is when an Ethernet cable is fitted.

I was told that the advisor I spoke to prior to upgrading should have informed me of this, but did not.

2) EE are offering a free years subscription to Norton 360 and a 2nd year at half price. So about two months ago I tried to download this software using the links provided by EE. On no occasion was I able to download this software and despite many emails, live online chats and phone conversations with both EE & Norton this problem has still not been resolved.

I have been given link after link in order to download the software and it always ends up at the same page which is blank except for the words ‘Online offer only’ in small print at the top left corner.

One advisor told me that I was the first person to tell them about being unable to download the software but another told me they had several subscribers contact them about it.

In my opinion EE/Orange have failed in their contractual obligations to firstly provide me the speeds promised, failing to give the information required prior to upgrading, especially regarding the need to have a permanent Ethernet connection & failing to provide the free software they advertise on their site.

I informed EE that I feel I have the right to cancely contract with them and use an alternative provider but they say that in their opinion they have provided the service they contracted to & if I cancel my contract arbitrarily I would be liable for a cancellation fee, which could cost me in £379.44 because I still have about 14 months of my contract with them outstanding.

I feel it extremely unfair that EE and other ISPs blatantly neglect to provide the correct information about what is required to attain the speeds they boast & it should be made law that they do.

Having used computers and the Internet for many, many years I am aware that there can be problems obtaining the speeds advertised. For example the distance of the router to the exchange and the number of users surfing the Interent, but to only get speeds of less than half that promised I feel is completely dishonest. In my case my BT exchange is less than a 1/4 mile away.

To offer free software and then not provide it as part of that contract is equally a failure to fulfil their obligations.

Finally on several occasions I have been told that I would be contacted by EE about the issues by phone but this never happens & I have to contact them again myself. That says a lot about whether they care about the problems I am having.

I would be really interested in reading your comments and/or suggestions as to what I should, or can do.

Thank you to all those who read this post, especially for your patience.


John (perseus1947)



Dont do anything until you have done this . . . .

Copy and paste your above post into an email and with a few words explaining that it is visible to thousands of people on the Which magazine conversation. Include the link to this page. Politely ask for his help. Challenge him to fix the problem to your satisfaction, so that you can post the resolution on the conversation.

Send the email to Mr Olaf Swantee CEO of Everything Everywhere.
His email is olaf.swantee@ee.co.uk

This information comes from http://www.ceoemail.com which I commend to everyone who has problems with a big organisation. Just go to the top. Why waste your time. The more emails from complaining customers to CEOs, the more likely they are to fix their internal failures.

If anything happens, please tell us here.

Good luck.


Hi John

Wow – what a terrible tale of customer service! It sounds like you were not given a lot of information you should have had at the outset. And ultimately, if you had had that information, I presume it would’ve impacted on your decision to “upgrade” your contract. I’m sorry you’ve had such a shocking experience with them. We will continue to press companies to let people out of their contracts in exactly the situation you describe, if you’re signed up to a contract on the basis of a certain speed you are entitled to expect to receive it. Either they should be providing you with a lot more accurate information at the outset, or they should be doing more to make sure you get the speed they offered you. I would suggest regularly recording the speeds you are getting, including making a note of the time of day, so that you have a body of evidence which suggests you’re never getting anywhere near the speeds they quoted. Do you have any paperwork from the start of the contract that mentions the speeds?

perseus1947 says:
20 May 2014

Hello Josh,

Thank you for your comments and especially for reading my ‘novella’

An excellent suggestion about recording dates, times & speeds of my speedchecks.

I use the BT SpeedTest Results (Wholesale) for my checks because it is reccomended by some, if not all ISPs. When the test is complete it can be sent to your ISP for their records but it is very sensible to record them personally too.

Since I uploaded my post here I contacted EE yet again and was told I could ask for my contract to be cancelled due to it having been mis-sold to me but I am not too hopeful because EE have altready said they do not consider that they have given me misinformation or neglected to inform me about everything. I have made a claim nevertheless. Time will tell.

It is those two innocent looking words ‘Up to’ which ISPs hide behind.

Ofcom have told me that ISPs do not have any obligation to tell potential subscribers about what speeds they are likely to actually get or about the need for a permanent Ethernet cable attachment.

Ofcom are pressing to get this changed but after three years nothing has been done by either the ISPs or the Government. No change there then!

As I upgraded via the phone I do not have anything in writing saying I will get 74mbps.

In my opinion not giving potential subscriber the full information is tantamount to fraud as far as I am concerned and I wonder what the outcome would be if someone took an ISP to court about their practices, legal though they may be.

Since upgrading I am paying £26.50 more for my Internet but with speeds not much faster than when I was using an ADSL connection.



I do sympathise with John [persius 1947] . There should be a legal guarantee imposed by the regulator in all of the terms and conditions laid down by these companies which states clearly that if they fail to meet their obligation to their customers they will agree to be held to account, and in cases such as Johns where you have signed up to a contract, opt out penalties should become null and void. They will argue and do everything in their power in the hope you will give up and go away which is what happens in a lot of cases. You need to be pretty resilient and forceful to get any satisfaction from some of these companies these days and the larger they get the more power they are able to exert on unsuspecting customers.

perseus1947 says:
20 May 2014

Hello Beryl,

Thank you also for reading my post and your reply.

I have just sent an email to my local MP about this issue, mainly because it affects countless millions of people using the Internet and they all appear to be being ‘ripped’ off. It is not just my ISP either it is all of them.

Whether he will ‘take up arms’ and do something about it remains to be seen. I will know because everytime he stand up and speaks in the House of Commons I get a transcript of what he says.

I think all will agree that we are not being troublemakers, simply want to be treated in a fair and respectful manner.

In my case I am made of sterner stuff and am not fobbed of lightly. When I feel there is a wrong I do everthing I can to get the wrong righted.

Perhaps if everyone who experience these problems (millions) contacted their MPs it is likely that it would be taken up and something would be done.


perseus1947 says:
22 May 2014

I have just received notification from Which saying that BT have been told by the ASA (Advertising Standards Agency) that their availability speedchecker must give accurate information about what speeds their subscribers should expect.

Although this is a step in the right direction I assume it only refers to BTs TV advertising campaign. So what about all the other ISDP who advertise phenomenal speeds?

This information can be read at:


The next step should, and must be that ALL ISPs must be required by law to give realistic figures to anyone who already subscribe to them and are thinking of upgrading or potential new customers.

At the moment ISPs use the two totally misleading and meaningless words ‘Up To’.

One of the Tech Support ‘experts’ from the ISP I use, EE/Orange told me that although they advertise that ‘up to’ a certain speed can be provided theoretically, depending on certain criteria such as distance from the exchange or the number of people using the Internet at a given time, the speeds could be as low as 1mbps. This also can apply to superfast users

What is required is that honest information must be given when inquiring about broadband speeds because even if we call an ISP on the phone or email them we are beoing told about the ‘Up to’ speeds and nothing about how realistic these figures really are, or in millions cases are not.

If potential upgraders or subscribers are not informed that these high speeds are only obtainable if an Ethernet cable is permanently installed in my opinion they are mis-selling their product and it is tantamount to fraud. In my case, and in millions of other cases having the Ethernet cable permanently installed is impractible, if not near impossible.