/ Technology

Win! Advertising watchdog changes rules for broadband ads

Broadband speed

New advertising standards to crackdown on misleading speed claims in broadband advertising. Will this lead to better broadband?

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), which sets advertising guidelines for the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to implement, has announced that from May 2018 broadband providers will be required to change their advertising of speed claims.

This is a big win for our broadband speed campaign and the 127,000 people who have backed it. We hope that today’s announcement will finally ensure people get a clearer idea of the speeds they could actually get in their home before they sign up to a new deal.

Broadband speed

When people ask me about my job at Which?, I have a fact I always bring out. Did you know that only 10% of broadband customers need to receive a headline download speed for providers to promote it in their ads?

We’ve been working on the issue of misleading speed ads for a long time, and back in 2014 we launched our Broadband Speed Guaranteed campaign to tackle the problem.

We called on CAP to look into this and it agreed, consulting on proposals to implement tougher standards for advertising speed claims.

We know from our research that people expect to receive around 91% of the speed that is advertised, which backed our view that people were being misled when signing up to broadband packages.

Most people understand that their broadband will vary at different times but it’s unclear what their expectations should be when they sign up to a new deal. Under the current rules, if a provider says a customer can get ’up to’ 24mbps with their package it’s unclear whether this will be consistently or at 4am

So today’s announcement marks a fundamental shift in advertising within the broadband market. CAP supported our recommendation to make the headline advertised speed an average of what people can expect to get in their homes at peak times. It also concluded that the headline advertised speed should be achievable by at least 50% of customers – a great improvement on the current 10% level.

But what is peak time for broadband, I hear you ask? Everyone relies on the internet at different times but Ofcom defines peak time as 8pm to 10pm for residential customers.

Fix Bad Broadband

While today will go some way to crackdown on misleading broadband speed ads, our work on broadband is far from finished.

Broadband remains an essential part of modern life and yet many aren’t getting the service they need. Earlier this year we launched our Fix Bad Broadband campaign to identify and tackle the barriers to getting a good, reliable broadband connection.

We know that urban and rural communities alike are let down by poor connections, dropouts and slow speeds. We’ve been calling on people to use our free speed checker so that we can build a better picture of broadband speeds across the UK and identify areas of bad broadband, to help people get better connected.

So what do you think of today’s news? Will this help improve the transparency of broadband speed claims? Are you happy with your broadband provider, or do you think your service could be better?

Denton Davies says:
24 November 2017

The companies that advertise and proclaim the speeds provided should be able to deliver what it says on the can.

fully agree

When running these campaigns and associated publicity it would be helpful if Which?, as well as criticising the advertising, put its education hat on explained all the factors involved that affect the actual speed that an individual consumer gets. Many people still seem to be under the impression that buying broadband is like buying a pint of beer, and as a number of contributors have explained, it is not at all comparable.

I do not mind in the least efforts to improve services, but stirring up support without giving the whole story is a little deceitful. I make a plea once again for Which?, as a respectable consumers voice, just to fair, complete and balanced information.

As John says above, this ASA ruling will have no effect on speeds that you get. For those who do not realise the implications of the (correct) use of “up to”, advertised speeds will drop, and 50% of consumers will still be disappointed. If we published what some people want – what 100% of consumers can expect – published speeds would be miniscule.

I see no way giving any “average” speed is of much benefit – if we are among the 50% below it. I’d like to see us able to get an individual speed prediction for our own house from a potential provider.

I agree malcolm r, but how little a beer do you get for it to become acceptable, while others are paying exactly same for a full pint. I don’t see contacting my provider to complain as being of any use as Sky, Talktalk etc all have their hands tied by the Openreach monopoly. At least Virgin are running their own network and quite well too (but not perfect). You point about an individual speed for your house is a very good one, so long as your bill reflects it.

Even beer is in the “up to” category 🙂 If you go to Herefordshire or Yorkshire, the average price of a pint is £3.31 whereas in Surrey it is £4.40. And there is “outrage” apparently because one bar is charging £13.40. Even the Savoy seems to keep it down to around 6 (I’m told). And for many, beer seems to be “essential”. 🙁

Valid point, but it’s easier to switch provider with beer by just walking a bit further down the road and your contract is a lot shorter.

Surrey to Yorkshire is quite a long road 🙂

I so agree with you, Malcolm, on the way Which? launches these public debates with so little factual information to provide a platform for the discussion. It does no one any favours, least of all Which?, to have a general rant-fest on an important topic which ends up with large amounts of compound ignorance. It is then left to a handful of knowledgeable people like Duncan, Wavechange and you to set the record straight and guide the discussion back to rationality. Meanwhile Which? staffers remain absent. It is helpful to be able to discuss things without being constrained by the opinions of Which? personnel, but not to illuminate the contents with the facts seems like an abdication of responsibility.

I second that e-motion.

I am going to try this. Next time I go to a pub I am going to ask for “up to a pint of Doom Ship (or Ghost Bar) please” and see what I get. The landlord will reach for a schooner and dribble a drip or two into the glass. Should I expect more? Luckily the law prevents the publican from serving less than a standard measure – but, perversely, no longer requires the premises to inform me how much it will cost! So the beer analogy is quite apposite.

Dead right John Ward. Well said.

At present my FTTP broadband provides a very reliable service with a speed that is slightly higher than what I pay for. When I had copper broadband with the same ISP my speed was within the estimated range, and there was no mention of ‘up to’ speeds in the marketing. Along with other users I had complained about the use of ‘up to’ speeds and the ISP had removed their claims, relying on users to look at the speed estimate for their home or prospective home. It’s high time we get rid of all ‘up to’ speeds and replace them with realistic estimates.

When buying a pint of beer, we get what what we pay for. If customers consider that the amount of frothy head served is excessive they can ask for the glass to be topped up to a reasonably acceptable level. I would prefer all pubs to use line glasses, as the micropub in town does, which means that you are guaranteed a pint of beer and there is less chance of spillage.

J Wilson says:
24 November 2017

Like many commenting on this I feel that the whole system is wrong, and like some BT/Openreach were given MILLIONS of taxpayers money, to ‘install’ Fibre Optic’ Broadband cables in ‘the Shires’. However, they only went as far as the ‘exchange’, rather than installing separate fibre-optic lines to individual houses, so I’m still on old copper wire at least 20 yrs old, if not indeed older.

However, a few weeks ago I discovered an Open reach ‘engineer’ working on a roadside junction box, and it turned out (although he wasn’t keen to talk to me) that this was a fibre optic box (within 100yds of my house) but it only provided access for the RAF who have a base nearby. So they have no argument for claiming that installing fibre-optic lines to hoses on the same side of the road to the base, would cost extra because they’d need to dig up the road.

But, I bet that this is what they told this foolish taxpayer funded ‘Shire’ deal run by the local Councils, as their excuse for not taking fibre-optics to our houses. I didn’t even get the Internet until 2012 as we had, and may still have shared lines. So support and share #TIBOHR with links to 2 petitions.

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I suspect he could also have been prosecuted for breaching the OSA.

Duncan: how feasible would it be to replace all the copper wire with FO cable? Expensive, of course, but would it be relatively straightforward? I’m only talking the overhead wiring, now.

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I’m only guessing, here, but living where we do everything is on poles (except the drains (!) ) so would it be possible simply to slide the FO cable along the copper lines and tension it once it was in place?

You should only pay for the speed you get. Averge 2Mb should be 1/5 price of average 10Mb.

There is an element of stick and carrot with the idea. I quite like it.

If nothing else it may show people that just having multiple users in a property using wifi on a router badly located is guaranteed to provide poor speeds. An official testing of service provision at the door would be interesting and educational.

Can they not ping the router from the exchange ? Ping all their customers they’re taking money from and email them the figure they are getting and if that’s bad there is an infrastructure issue be it router or cable. At this point you should be getting an automatic discount. I acknowledge there are many problems in homes with wifi interference and poor signal due to router placement but when connected by ethernet cable directly to the router you should be getting close to advertised speeds and if not you’re being ripped off.

I have never received the speeds I signed up for,with my supplier

Our broadband speed in Norfolk is terrible and no-one cares.
BT Openreach laid plastic pipes through our village 3 years ago. We asked them why and were told they were to carry the fibre optic cables and that we would have fibre broadband in about 6 months.
Great we thought.
NOTHING has happened since!

I think getting high speed broadband to 99.9% of all homes and businesses in the whole of the UK is a more crucial infrastructure project than HS2 rail line. Just saying.

Thing that are not needed always get government priority .Essential things or services are delayed usually because e there is no money to spare . Al, wasted on unnecessary things or given away to dictators in some far away rich country EVERY GOVERNMENT we have had for decades Don’t blame just the present one ALL are to blame

Now the (Virgin) cable network needs to be opened up to more suppliers on their fibre network to enhance competition. Virgin has increased the price of my bundle 60% in 7 years for virtually exactly the same thing. Switching to any other supplier on the (BT) copper/ fibre telephone landline network (regardless who is named supplier) is not an effective option for me as I’m too far from the (BT) exchange to get good speeds.
The speeds I get are quite satisfactory for me (24Mb) but nowhere near the “Up to 70M++++” they keep talking about, so this ruling is a good step in the right direction for consumers.

I think that Which? has gone to great lengths to educate subscribers on how to improve speeds, as information on the internet in general has. Customers have the right to just plain honesty on the part of their I.S.P’s as to what they are EXACTLY paying for no more, no less, when purchasing their products..

50% of customers? That’s not really a win is it?

Now I would like to see cheaper prices!

Super fast broadband should be more available to the average person. Prices at the moment are far too high for many people. It should be super fast for everyone.

Neil Barton says:
24 November 2017

The ongoing monopoly of BT as the main infrastructure provider leaves me totally frustrated because they do not provide me with a GENUINE fibre optic connection to my computer,’phone etc.The “Cabinet” to my residence is 150-200 yards distant. Therefore,as we all know,is where the FIBRE-OPTIC connection terminates.

What is it you are prevented from doing, Neil, that your distance from the cabinet affects? Have you asked for fibre to the premises [FTTP]? Are you willing to pay for it?

A minimum ‘guaranteed’ broadband speed should be published, along with clarity of pricing.
For example, is a telephone line required? if so, they should state clearly the overall cost,
including line rental, not just the monthly broadband costs.

It is all well and good forcing these companies to meet the advertised speeds, which I do approve of. But the major problem in my area (TS19) is, despite the fact that the systems speeds have improved, constantly being left high and dry by a lost signal. For homes that use Wi-Fi to control heating and other things, this is a huge problem that needs major improvement.

I would like speeds that I am paying for not excuses that at peak times it will drop off as many others are surfing the net.
When I pay for a pint of beer the landlord doesn’t say I’ll only give you a half pint as the pub is getting busy :-(( .

Well, I sometimes find the beer I want has run out.

And, to be fair, water pressure drops at certain times.

Too true – especially at the weekends when demand from the breweries is reduced.

Ah that bring us nice back to punting along the river Cam:

Why IS Watney’s Red Barrel like making love in a punt?

It’s fairly close to water, or something like that. I never had the displeasure of this beer, made to suit the palate of the undiscerning consumer.

When I pay for 100mb thats what I want not to be told I may have “drop off” when it get busy, I don’t pay for a pint of beer and the landlord pulls me half a pint and tells me it’s because his pub is getting busy.

There will be no improvement in broadband service until Openreach is taken away from BT and combine it with the 3 mobile network owners One of wich is BT owned EE) to give an independant UK backbone network. BT have been given millions to improve the network but have spent on buying EE and a TV channel.They are currently planning to use Plusnet and EEconfuse customers.

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There’s some truth in your first sentence, Duncan. What W? has pushed for is transparency – in other words, companies telling you what you’re likely to get overall.

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Pinging my router at 4am and still only getting for example 10Mb, totally proves my point. Even on a good day (day not night) I can only get up to 3Mb but proving the max available even at 4am and only getting 10Mb shows getting up to 17Mb can be considered unachievable. So why am I being charged full price. This is in a property in Greater Manchester where fibre passes the entrance to the flat complex but doesn’t come in and in this built up area, the rural argument holds absolutely no water. It’s not the “not wanting to pay” I’ll happily pay for fibre it’s the paying and not getting as the twisted pairs to here are incapable of supplying the bandwidth. Interestingly checker.ofcom.org.uk/broadband-coverage states “Highest available download speed” I can get is “up to 5Mbps” so ping away whenever it suits it only takes milliseconds.

One of the major problems is DROP OUTS it can be very frustrating when you are in the middle of a game of Bridge the connection is lost !

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Many of you seem to have been taken in by advertising blurb not really knowing any thing at all about fast broadband ll adverts are just there to persuade you to buy something you do not really need or could manage without Take you money giving very little in return