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Are broadband ads a ‘complete and utter joke’?

Snail on cable

In a new development for our Broadband Speed Guaranteed campaign, two MPs have come out to criticise misleading broadband ads. Do you agree with what they have to say?

On Wednesday last week, culture minister Ed Vaizey MP told a House of Commons Committee that he thought the current rules on broadband advertising were ‘a complete and utter joke’. Here’s what he said:

‘It’s ridiculous. The idea that if you can deliver to 10% of houses the broadband speeds you are advertising on a large billboard and get away with it seems to be a complete and utter joke, and I have told that to [the ASA’s] face.’

Ed Vaizey didn’t stop there. He continued:

‘It is good to have independent regulators. But I also feel as a politician and minister in this space I want to have the opportunity to express my frustrations. I am frustrated.

‘The way broadband speeds are advertised are misleading and I’d like to see them changed. I’ve made my views clear and the ASA will be aware of my concerns.’

Broadband providers are failing

And then there was Grant Shapps MP, who on Friday spoke on Radio 4’s Today programme. He too criticised broadband providers and the Advertising Standards Authority for failing to act on misleading broadband adverts, saying:

‘Internet service providers are failing to provide anything like the speeds they are advertising. Rather than one in ten, it should be nine in ten people receive the speeds. You should be able to leave the contract and if we can’t get the internet service providers, or indeed the regulators, to do that, then parliament will need to act.’

A spokesman for the ASA said in response to Grant Shapps:

‘Our position on broadband speed claims in ads is based on extensive work undertaken in recent years, including a full public consultation on new guidance. We are an independent, evidence-based regulator and that underpins our regulation.

‘We are, however, aware of concerns about this issue and we are carefully considering if there is further work we can do on the matter.’

Here at Which?, we think that Ed and Grant are right. And more than 100,000 people back us. We’re calling for the ASA to change its 10% rule – broadband ads should show the speeds the majority of their customers will get. Not just 10% of them. And we also want it to be quicker and easier for customers to get compensation if they don’t get the speeds they’re promised.

Moving forwards

We’ve had some wins on this already, with Virgin Media and SSE both backing our campaign. And then Ofcom launched a Broadband Code of Conduct here at Which? UK, which included a right for you to exit your broadband contract without penalty if you don’t get what you were promised when signed up. Ofcom is also consulting on automatic compensation for telecoms customers.

But we know there’s more to do, so it’s great to hear MPs so strongly backing what we’ve been saying over the years. What do you think? Do you agree with Ed and Grant?

I’d also love to see what percentage of customers you think should be achieving a headline speeds before a broadband provider can then advertise that speed. Please vote for what you think’s reasonable in the poll below.

When a broadband provider advertises an *up to* speed, what is the minimum percentage of customers this speed should apply to?

Only 100% of customers (37%, 574 Votes)

90% of customers (32%, 494 Votes)

80% of customers (12%, 179 Votes)

70% of customers (7%, 110 Votes)

Under 10% of customers (4%, 64 Votes)

50% of customers (3%, 39 Votes)

10% of customers (2%, 32 Votes)

60% of customers (2%, 30 Votes)

30% of customers (1%, 8 Votes)

20% of customers (0%, 3 Votes)

40% of customers (0%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,536

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Is it just me but when I see Are broadband ads a ‘complete and utter joke’? I keep seeing Are broadband ads a ‘complete and udder joke’?

I havnt seen it like that but I was playing on youtube one evening and mistakenly typed in udderly amazing and ended up watching a video about dairy products which interested me as dairy upsets me no end
Its wonderful what you see sometimes. . . Its even more wonderful what my fingers do and it’s obvious if I dont read it back. . . .Near ever “some” ends up soem

Could be the slow broadband putting it all back together again?

You could consider going to Specsavers, Alfa.

🙂 Ha ha !!! Been there, done that, got the t-shirt or should I say specs, but will not be going there again.

High-speed Broadband is a joke and does not reach the farms where businesses are based. It benefitted BT more than the businesses that need proper connections. The can now sell their online TV services to more customers.

I have heard of numerous people who have paid for unlimited and boardband speeds that BT could not provide for their particular area,. However, BT have mislead customers to think they are getting the service and paying for a service they have not received. It seems to be normal practice for BT to do this. I know we have in the past paid for a service which is unachievable in our area.

The claims of broadband suppliers are fraudulent and they rely on the fact that their customers don’t have the means or capability to legally challenge them. When the supplier claims to provide a broadband speed between a minimum and maximum then it should at least be capable of attaining the lowest speed. Unfortunately, in most instances this is not the case. Fraud!
We also have the problem of BT having a stranglehold on the infrastructure, a monopoly that should be broken up to allow for competition.

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Trouble is they Don’t advertise the Minimum Speed.

I’m on BT Infinity 1 unlimited fibre broadband. I’ve been on it for approx six months. When I initially joined the speeds were supposed to be Upto 38mbs, on Wifi I am lucky to get 20mbs, I actually average between 15 to 20mbs.
Now BT Infinity 1 is advertised as being Upto 53mbs, how on earth can they get away with this! Nothing has changed, I still get the same speeds. They have changed my account, which now says that BT Infinity 1 unlimited is capable of receiving these new revised speeds of Upto 53mbs.
This is a Joke, How on earth can they get away with these New assertions. The advertising standards agency is totally inept. Of on is the same, total joke.
BT and all the other providers need to to made to advertise Realistic speeds, not these fictitious figures.
The Speeds we actually get need to be shown on our Bills. This should be a legal requirement, so we can see exactly what we are Paying for. They have gotten away with too much for far too long.

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duncan, exactly the point. A bit like claiming fuel consumption for your car – so much depends on how and where you drive it, among other factors.

But none of these practical factors are mentioned by the detractors, who seek to present their bandwagon case with one-sided evidence. I’d like to see all the facts made clear (this Convo helps, but how many read it?) and a rational solution found that really helps consumers. What is the point to an individual of knowing the minimum, maximum speed in their area? Even the average is iffy. A means of getting an estimate to your particular premises exists, so why not use that? It is of far more value..

We can become obsessed with knocking business (or any other institution) for what they don’t do, instead of looking at what can be done to positively help.

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Malcolm – As I have explained, there is no need to even mention an ‘up to’ speed. All that is needed is to get an estimate for your home. My ISP dropped reference to ‘up to’ speeds several years ago but we need to get the others up to speed.

I haven’t mentioned “up to” above (although I think it is understandable to most people). I have just said ” A means of getting an estimate to your particular premises exists, so why not use that? It is of far more value..” Publicise this as a positive thing, rather than the negativity that seems to appeal to some – including politicians.

Tom Hayden says:
25 April 2016

To my mind the issue isn’t one of confusion, but in the fact one does not pay for what they get, they pay for what they COULD get if OpenReach did their job. That’s not the ISPs fault but I should not pay the same for my 5Mb connection as someone who has a bandwidth of15Mb. Essentially we should be charged per Mb across the whole industry so I would pay 1/10th of what someone who has 50Mb pays. This way is the only way to encourage investment in the infrastructure.

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ray says:
27 April 2016

you pay for a service that u dont get and they mislead their customers , fiberoptic broadband is what you can pay for but you dont get it to you door, its only up to the distribution panel. although they sell it as to your home

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I pay extra for Ultra High Speed fibre optic and keep checking with provider because I haven’t noticed any difference. They’ve checked the speed and say it’s right.

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Wael says:
28 April 2016

BT contract. 200MPS ” YES 200MBS!!!” Nowhere near that. Multiple engineers visited. Speed test alright. Rep loading a 3GB movie takes about 30-60 min???
New build house. No other provider has access t o broadband in the area.
Complete monopoly by BT. They claim Openreach are a different company! They do not have a preferential treatment!!!

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Ordered BT Infinity 1. The day came and went – the engineer arrived late and did not stay to check broadband was working. It wasn’t. I kept getting conflicting calls from the UK and India. I was told fibre optic broadband was no longer available at my address – only bog-standard broadband – 1 – 2 Mb! I cancelled and was informed several times by UK advisors that I would not be charged as they hadn’t fulfilled the contract. I now find I have been charged.
Quote from BT –
We estimate your download speed will be between 39Mb and 40Mb, and your upload speed will be between 9Mb and 10Mb. The minimum guaranteed speed you can expect from your BT Infinity will be 35Mb.

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Hi. have complained by e-mail – thanks for tip. I was so cross for BT’s mis-selling plus the lack of communication between India and the UK that I cancelled with BT the day after they installed broadband and Utility Warehouse have taken over. They say that there is no availability for their company at the moment as the fibre cabinet is full up. Have checked on BT website who claim there is now availability. The previous 2 owners of the property were on BT Infinity 2.

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After years of suffering 1.6 meg only we recently got “upgraded” to fibre. On offer max 35 meg (min 18 meg). Starts off okay at 25meg and drops to 10-12 meg after 10 days and stays there. My ISP is chasing but BT saying there is no problem. But I am not even getting the min 18 meg, says I?
Ah no, says BT we knock of a percentage from the minimum quoted for (I can’t recall the reason) so actually anything above 13 meg is actually acceptable. So 35 becomes 13? How can anyone make sense of this madness?

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I would like to escalate my complaint to the highest permit-able level. On the 6th April 2016 I changed broadband provider to BT having heard some excellent reports of Infinity 2.
From the moment I switched on the hub I experienced very unstable download speed. Occasionally dropping below 10mbps which I still have record of. I began to experience drop outs on my Netflix and Amazon prime streaming (wired connection) and even Facebook refused to load often.
I gave it two weeks to settle down as I am aware it can be unstable in the early days.
Unfortunately it never really improved other than the speed now varies between 19mbps and 38mbps on a 76mbps line with guaranteed minimum of 35 (if only).

I lodged a complaint on 24th April 4 days after my cool off period. I was subsequently contacted by tech dept on Monday 25th but the lady could not understand my account number and was impossible to progress due to problematic translation and understanding of the English language.
I lodged a further complaint discussing my initial complaint and re the call back from tech.
I called again on Tuesday 26th demanding my contract to be cancelled forthwith but was told he wasn’t authorised to do so even though BT was in breach of contract with the minimum guaranteed download speed of 35. The tech assistant did a check at the time and recorded 34 I them did one with BT speed checker and recorded 24 and an awful ping of 51. He made an arrangement for another tech dept to call me back on Friday between 12 and 2. It never materialised.

I subsequently contacted cancellations on 0800800150 yet again, getting through to tech dept and eventually options dept where I spoke to a pleasant and helpful chap called James. He was unable to assist but promptly transferred me to “Sean”. Sean said he could cancel but I would incur a huge penalty for cancellation whilst in contract. I tried to explain the voluntary codes of practice that BT are part of for slow connection speeds but insisted he was still unable to assist without a charge. I asked for his surname so that I may escalate my complaint but he refused it. I asked to speak to a manager. He liaised with his manager whose name was “Steven” (surname refused) and said he was unavailable. I asked if they could furnish me with contact details for the ombudsmen and was told they can’t give them details out.
I was told that “Steven” would call be back by 17:00 hrs 2 hrs later but the time is now 18:25hrs and nothing.
I feel I am going around in circles just to cancel a service that unfortunately has failed to meet the guaranteed Mark.
I’d like to add that I am disabled and housebound and also suffer with mental Health issues which include anxiety.
This issue has had a negative impact upon my health whilst trying to get this situation resolved.
I want nothing more than to enjoy my imprisonment in my home comfortably whilst enjoying my only enjoyment of watching streaming tv and feel the only way for this to be for filled is for BT to end my contract obligation and allow me to pay for the service until I am able to get a smooth transfer to another provider.
Please can you let me know where you stand on this matter please.
Many thanks

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Other retailers cannot sell goods and services without a clear understanding on the part of the consumer what they are purchasing. It is laughable that ISPs can get away with an ‘up to’ description. This would be like buying a 250 gram package of food which may sometimes contain only 15 grams. Ludicrous.

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I have been a PlusNet member for a little over 3 years with a speed of 4.76mb every time I check and happy with service but until I called as I wanted a better deal as I was paying £9.99 a month on top of line rental with them. So called and they give me a contract for 18 months and a new modem free for 18 months just line rental. I thought was excellent but problems started soon as new modem went on speed dropped to 3.46mb lost over 1mb now and put back old modem still same contacted PlusNet 9 times on phone and online still same they kept messing with my snr (signal to noise ratio) reset and no answer from them all tech checks were done by me and no fault on line. I even bought a bt hub 5 to see if that would resolve But now its seems my modem is been remote and rebooted every few days ?? I can see my speed isn’t going to be fixed back to what is was. No faults apparent on the line etc. no indication Suppose to be up to 17mb I am happy with 4.76mb because of distance but now dropped to 3.46mb its not what I am paying for I was suppose to keep what I have been getting three years As per person when I called to renegotiate contract with them

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Ralph Torretta says:
1 May 2016

There is a lot to catch up here. Have just been to Argentina and in the middle of the hills in a central province hundreds of miles from any major town we got very decent speeds of up to 65 mbps. I was able to watch Netflix and whatever films I was allowed by Amazon Prime with hardly any interruption.
Here I have super fibre with Sky and although I cannot complain too much the maximum I could measure was about 75 mbps.

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The last time I phoned customer services – March 2016 (the second time this year, and I am not including Christmas Eve 2015), they noted that the speed had gone up from 1 to 3. Then sent me a new lead and microfilter. Last week I had almost the whole week when it went down about 4 pm. and was not on again until the next day. Bank holiday Monday it was off from 5.30 am in the morning until 5.30 pm. the next afternoon (yesterday), then off again at 8.30 pm until 6.00 this morning (weds).

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David Stott says:
24 June 2016

One that lived up to its promise!

We live in a fairly rural area. BT offers fibre to the cabinet, but since said cabinet is two kilometers of dodgy copper away, that is no use at all.

However, a company called Vispa has recently offered us wireless (NOT satellite) broadband. Initially they said they could only guarantee 10-20 mbs instead of their usual 30, but we went ahead anyway since it’s a whole lot better than the 1.7 we had. However, after a month it normally runs between 25 and 27,and seems unaffected by time of day.

Upload speeds are a lot slower, that’s the nature of the technology, but with no cabling and just an aerial about 12 inches across on the roof, it’s a very neat solution.

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As a BT customer, for years my download speed of ~7Mbps was OK, as we mostly surf and read emails, didn’t do much else and there’s no children doing bandwidth consuming stuff. Whenever sales people called wanting to upgrade us, they could never guarantee a minimum increase and, worse, whenever I asked then how far away the cabinet was (a prime consideration for getting speed) they didn’t know. As circumstances have recently changed, I thought I’d check the latest BT deal. In chatting about the package that interested me, they said they would guarantee a minimum speed of 54Mbps, no holds barred. That was a big change in attitude, so I went ahead. After installation I found I was only achieving 48Mbps. I spoke with BT and a helpful BT Openreach engineer turned up. After some detailed investigations, his tests showed 54 Mbps reaching my house, but when he looked at the BT stand at the front of my house he said “Oh, we don’t wire up the house distribution network like that any more. It hasn’t been like that for about 16 years” (we have been here from new for 22 years). The only problem was, for him to rewire the stand would mean us being left without a monitored house alarm as he would have to disconnect it. To get it reconnected would then cost us a call out charge from the alarm company (£60+ on top of the BT connection BT Infinity charge we had already paid ). We didn’t like that idea so left it alone. The positive thing is that we now seem to be getting 51Mbps, so something must have been done by BT somewhere. It’s a vast improvement over 7Mbps for a small extra investment.

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