/ 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.

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.

I live out in the sticks, and don’t have the luxury of ‘Superfast Broadband’, but am supposed to get 8mb/sec. And typically that is approximately what I do get. However for the past week I get just c. 2mb/sec (constant – even during the ‘silent hours’). Yet my BT Router states 7.938 mbps (this has been a constant since the service was installed – 3 years ago). Clearly the router is ‘fixed’ to report what BT want to be able to claim, and not accurately reflect the true connection speed. This figure is reported whether the router has been powered up/connected for months, or minutes

James Ballantyne says:
7 November 2014

Does the ASA ruling have any force in law?

What are the “acceptable ranges”, of service level.

“As a result, the ASA has told BT that its availability checker must provide accurate information.”
In the absence of numerical bounds this statement is useless and unenforceable.

Is there a lower limit?

BT claim to me today that it is 50% of the offered speed.

My case:

On 13 October 2014 the contract states:

Your broadband speed

We estimate your download speed will be 69.5Mb.
We estimate your upload speed will be 20Mb.

On 27October the measured supply was:

Supplied download speed of 35Mbps 50.03% of contract
Upload peed of 11Mbps. 55%of contract.

This has now been checked and tested by BT who say that is the maximum I can expect.

BT just squeeze in with a picric victory, using their own measure of “acceptability”.

Ian Lloyd says:
19 December 2014

Ah, So I’m not alone then!.. 🙂

BT amazingly, provided Infinity to my Cabinet, after many years of saying they would never do so.. Good so far… The Cabinet is only 800M down a main road, with only 20 houses in my hamlet.. The availability checker claimed I would get 62-65MB on my number.. Happy Days. I signed up, moving my Phone service back to BT along with the Infinity 2 package at £26 a month.
Installation went well, engineer turned up on time and fitted my Shiny new Fibre Powered Broadband.. Oh happy days….
But wait… Only 18MB showing on the first speedtest. All the normal stuff completed (extensions, wired connection, time of day accounted for), nothing would improve the speed… A complaint to BT and an Engineer turned up, On time, to do some ‘Stuff’.. He moved my connection in the Cabinet, and left saying that the speed would increase in the hours to a day, to something like the speed I was expecting… No change 1 week later.
Second complaint, and a second engineer proved that the Cabinet may be 800M away, but the Cable run to my house is 2.6km, so I am NEVER going to get anything more than the 22MB I was now seeing. Oh Misery….
BT Customer complaints could offer me 3 things
1) Cancel the contract, and they would ‘see’ if they could waive some of the near £400 in cancellation charges!.
2) Downgrade to Infinity 1 package for £3 a month less, but I would have to renew my 18 month contract, and potentially suffer further speed decrease.
3). Live with it.

No compensation for the 4 months I have been paying for a service I could NEVER receive (not even a refund of the £12 difference)
No explanation as to why their own website gets the ‘estimate’ so disasterously wrong.
When I told them I would not be accepting this as a resolution, they said they would pass the complaint to the Review board, who would contact me within 10 Days….. I wait to see what they say…

My worry is that I could never have received the service I bought, on the basis of the information they provided. I understand that the estimate cannot be guaranteed, but the same site also claims that the estimate is usually correct to with a couple of MB.. I am left feeling like BT have defrauded me, and will get away with it…

I will report back with any news after Christmas…………….

vangleen says:
1 February 2015

Never mind the speed checker I put in my postcode and tel no and it came back I could get infinity one of the best deals was BT three months later and having a second line installed all for broadband I still haven’t got broadband and its still ongoing.

Graeme says:
27 March 2015

I have spent an hour on the phone to BT today regarding upload speeds. We have purchased cloud storage 1tb. We have 229gb to upload and synch to ensure data security. Our average upload speed is 0.2mbps across all tests. I have taken BT to task over this as they say they only guarantee download speed. I tested the speeds across a number of broadband test sites including USwitch and BTwholesale. On the worst result the test came back as said there was a fault with the connection (0mbps), on the best we averaged 0.3mbps upload. Download speeds are average at 3mbps and standard broadband.

BT’s operative said that the upload speed was dependent on the ability of the equipment doing the upload. This was unfortunate for the BT operative, as the PC being used was only purchased on the 19th of March 2015, with a 2tb HDD, Gb wireless adaptor, Gb NIC, 8gb of memory and an i5 quad core processor with 3mb cache. Specifically because our old laptop would have been geologically slow.

I had to explain to the BT operative that between the PC and the BT Hub we are averaging 74mbps, and that the telephone cable to the house is new (as is the connection), and that we are approx 400mtrs from the exchange, and that all the infrastructure between us and the exchange and the service provided to us belongs to BT. The BT operative seemed to be confused by the fact that the company he works for effectively owns the entire core Public Service Telephone Network infrastructure in the UK and tried to make some comparison with EE, and Virgin. At this point I was quite terse.

The BT operative told me that BT had no way of managing upload speeds and that it wasn’t their responsibility. I asked how this was possible when the infrastructure and the service (ISP) is BT? The operative couldn’t explain what he meant. So I explained how a PSTN works, and it’s analogues to a corporate Voip networks across multiple sites blah blah blah. The operative reiterated the point that BT are not responsible for upload speeds, and that the sending equipment is the arbiter of upload speed, and things started to go in ever increasingly angry circles.

The point of all this is: That with the advent of Domestic Cloud storage services being taken up by the many as insurance against home equipment failure. Then BT can expect people like me, to be requiring an initial bulk upload way in excess of the usual requirements for short sustained period (and especially if they are on unlimited broadband basis). Subsequent to this bulk upload, data transfers should level off.

However 229gb at 0.2mbps is going to take better than two months to upload at .2mbps, if the PC is set to be `always on’ in power management, and the hub is left on all the time. To illustrate the point it takes approximately 21 minutes to copy the same volume of data from an internal hard drive to an external hard drive over a USB 3 connection (Those are standard drives not SSD). Of course I appreciate that between me and BT’s data centre there are a number hops (and a fair it of that will be copper, and there are numerous network layers added to the data to get it from A to B). So the transfer should slower, however 21 minutes is 0.016 of a percent of 126720 minutes (being the approximate 88 days to complete the initial data transfer), and all the while I am being charged for broadband and cloud services. For veracity: at upload rates of approximately 3mbps, the 229gb transfer would still take around 11 days.

Call me cynical, but to my mind it feels like BT have concentrated their download offering (streaming etc), by borrowing huge chunks of upload bandwidth, and or throttling back upload packets to allow smoother download. Either way, you end up paying for a pig in poke, if you subscribe to a cloud service. And of course while all this background uploading is occurring, it’s tying up PC internal recourse and broadband resource. Meaning that everything else you do is impacted. I actually suggested to the BT operative, that it would be quicker for me to take my external Hard Drive to their data centre copy its contents to onto the cloud storage than it is to use the internet.

For myself I have brow beat the initial BT Operative into submission and have been escalated to a next level of support that didn’t exist for at the first half an hour I was on the phone … I’m say the initial BT operative consistently lied to me. The second person I spoke to has said that they will try to reset the line over the next 4 hours, though the result may take up to 48 hours. Anecdotally there is evidence to suggest that via BTWholesale, there is a method of `Training’ the service to accommodate higher upload speeds, however I have not as yet investigated this aspect.

BT are selling a service they can’t provide. And I imagine that many people call BT to say that their cloud service is rubbish and get fobbed off, and take it no further, this would appear to be the case if you scan the BT self help forums. Upload and download are two sides of the same coin, and BT needs to recognise that decent download speed is only half the service.

Clare Lang says:
13 May 2015

I’m having the same issues, took out BT Infinity 2 due to estimated speeds given:

We estimate your download speed will be 64.4Mb.
We estimate your upload speed will be 18.5Mb

On average i’m getting 30+, max ever 42 down. 11 max up.

I’m not happy BT are getting away with these misleading numbers, they are trying to say they are within acceptable range but I’m trying to push for cancellation of contract.

The Fibre was installed on 10/4/15.