We’ve heard many tales of how broadband speeds and mobile usage don’t come anywhere near what’s advertised. Is this fair? No – but there could soon be rules in place to stop misleading advertising in its tracks.
I can see that adverts are a difficult balance to strike for telecommunications companies. After all, advertising something like a broadband service isn’t like advertising a new pair of trainers – it’s so much more complicated.
And yes, there’s only a certain amount of information you can get into one ad, but there’s still a lot more that could be done to make things clearer.
New telecommunications advertising rules
And it seems that the people who regulate advertising agree. Last week the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) (which is responsible for writing the advertising codes in the UK) launched a consultation. It’s looking at proposals for new advertising guidance on the use of ‘up to’ broadband speeds and ‘unlimited’ usage claims in telecommunications advertising.
At the moment the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) allows companies to quote the theoretical maximum speed a service could provide, but only on the condition they make it clear to consumers that they’re not guaranteed to actually get this speed. One of the methods required is to qualify the speed with the phrase ‘up to’. But increasingly it seems to be agreed this doesn’t go far enough.
Proposals for future speed claims in broadband ads include only being allowed to quote speeds that are available to 10%, or even 50%, of users. Or to allow companies to advertise the theoretical maximum only if it’s accompanied by an indication of the typical performance you’d actually be likely to receive.
What rules should be introduced?
The use of the word ‘unlimited’ in any telecommunications advertising rarely means what it says on the tin. These types of deals are generally subject to some sort of fair usage policy (FUP) by the provider, whether it’s a broadband or mobile phone deal. At the moment the ASA lets advertisers call these packages ‘unlimited’ as long as the existence of the FUP is stated in the ad.
But new options suggested by the current consultation include making unlimited claims unacceptable for services that have a FUP that will either charge you extra for going over a certain limit, or suspend your service. Or it could go as far as discouraging advertisers from describing services with any sort of FUP as ‘unlimited’.
Now these changes are only possible proposals at the moment. We’ll be formally responding to the CAP consultations, but what you do think about the measures that are proposed? Do they go far enough? And do you feel you’ve been misled by an ad before?
I know I have much more respect for a company that’s honest with me in their advertising. When will they realise that luring customers in with claims that just aren’t true leads to higher expectations and more unhappy customers. It’s hardly rocket science!