/ Technology

Broadband providers must change their advertising ways

Network cable

It’s official – most of us are baffled by broadband ads. Nine in ten people find the ads misleading according to Virgin Media. So it’s about time the gap between advertised and actual broadband speeds was closed.

Whether on TV, a billboard or in a newspaper, I always take advertising claims with a pinch of salt.

After all, it’s an advertiser’s job to make us buy their products – and they won’t do this by making a song and dance about all the stuff that ain’t so impressive.

But I do expect an ad’s ‘factual’ content to be true, so that if I do succumb to advertising sweet talk and happen to place an order, I’ll be doing it as an ‘informed consumer’.

Most of us don’t trust broadband ads

It’s worrying then – although not surprising – that research commissioned by Virgin Media has found that most people find broadband advertising misleading and confusing, particularly when the ads are about speed.

Not that most of us are taken in by broadband speed claims – only 9% of people surveyed thought advertised headline broadband speeds were accurate. And more than half were unsurprised when shown the difference between advertised and actual speeds.

I like to think this is partly down to the work that Which? and other consumer groups have done to raise awareness of the huge gap between advertised speeds and what you get in reality.

But unfortunately, I think many will have learned these lessons the hard way – after ordering what they think is a super-zippy service, only to find that it’s nothing of the kind.

Stop mis-advertising broadband speeds

Now, it was in Virgin’s interests to commission this research – it was the only provider to come out smelling of roses in recent Ofcom broadband speed tests. But that doesn’t make the findings any less valid, especially as respondents didn’t know who had commissioned it.

I can only hope that the research prompts industry and regulators, such as the Advertising Standards Agency, to recognise that the current way broadband speed is advertised is misleading in the extreme – ‘up to’, ‘unlimited’… ‘utter tripe’. Not only that, but churning out ads that we don’t trust seems to defeat the purpose somewhat.

Get your act together broadband industry, and stop advertising broadband speeds that the vast majority of us simply can’t get.


I don’t think there’s any other area where advertising claims get away with being quite so misleading. I admit it’s a fairly complicated product and there’s a lot of information the providers need to get across but all the more reason for it to be clear so customers aren’t so confused about what they are buying!