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Update: another win! ASA rules against BT broadband speed claims

Speedometer

The Advertising Standards Authority has issued rulings against three ads by BT for their broadband speed advertising, all of which claim to offer ‘the fastest fibre speeds as standard’. So have you tried testing your broadband’s speed?

The ASA said that these ads ‘would make consumers think that BT Infinity had a faster headline speed than any other provider‘. It ruled that the claims were not sufficiently substantiated and that those ads were misleading.

Here at Which?, we think that broadband companies get away with far too much in their adverts – so it’s welcome that the ASA has taken action here. We’d like to see it take advertisers to task more often, particularly on the use of ‘up to’ speeds in adverts for broadband.

Currently, adverts can make a claim with the prefix ‘up to’ to cover all manner of sins. Only 10% of customers actually need to be able to achieve those speeds in order for the claim to be made on the poster.

Broadband speed claims

Earlier this year the ASA finally agreed to look into ‘up to’ speed claims, but since then we’ve not heard anything from them. Hopefully this positive ruling will remind them that there’s still plenty to do clean up ads for broadband packages. We’ll be hearing from them shortly on how they plan to sort out the mess.

In August Vodafone announced an end to line rental fees, and TalkTalk will soon follow suit. This is partly a response to calls from the ASA to be more clear on pricing. Yes, the cost is probably absorbed into the single bill, but at least customers know what they’re paying up front, and the headline price is the price you’re eventually going to pay. This again shows that when the ASA are bold and take a stand, the broadband industry listens.

So come on ASA, go all the way and sort out ‘up to’ claims now. Customers need to know what they’re signing up for, and get the speeds that they think they’re paying for.

​Update: 17 November 2016

Today brings a great win for our broadband campaign as the ASA and Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) have finally agreed that ‘up to’ speed claims can mislead some consumers.

It’s been two years since we launched our campaign calling for a change to these advertising rules, so we’ve been pushing for this for quite some time. The ASA finally agreed to review these ‘up to’ speed claims and carried out its own research over the summer.

ASA, Chief Executive Guy Parker, said:

‘New research indicates that speed claims in ads contribute to consumers’ expectations of the broadband speeds they’ll receive, but their expectations are not being met. That needs to change.’

Commenting on today’s news, Which? Managing Director of Home & Legal services, Alex Neill, said:

‘This research proves what Which? has been saying for years. Advertised broadband speeds can be misleading and many people are unaware that they may never get the attractive high speeds on offer.’

But we’re not done yet on this campaign. The ASA will now run a short consultation on the alternatives to advertising speed claims and announce the new rules in spring 2017.

Do you know if you’re getting the broadband speed you’re paying for? Please use our Broadband Checker tool and report back in the comments if the speed is what you expected.

Comments
Member

This Convo intro says of Which? :
“Today brings a great win for our broadband campaign as the ASA and Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) have finally agreed that ‘up to’ speed claims can mislead some consumers.”

Citizens Advice annual report 2015/16 says:
Misleading broadband
Our research led the Advertising Standards Authority to crack down on misleading broadband adverts.”

I do hope Which? and Citizens Advice are working together and not in competition. There is too much to do to duplicate resources and spend limited income, in my view. There is much common ground that should be shared.

Member

Hello, Malcolm – I know that you asked this question elsewhere and I’ve answered, but I just wanted to make sure that you’ve seen my reply. As you probably know, Which? works on issues that impact all consumers and we campaign to make people’s lives fairer, simpler and safer.

As with many charities, there’s some small cross over in some of the areas we campaign on. We don’t see this as a bad thing, often it takes a lot of voices in order to force change. While there are similarities between our broadband campaign and CAB’s, there are also some important differences. We have been working for over two years on the misleading ‘up to’ speed claims advertised by some providers, while CAB has been looking at unpacking prices for broadband since 2015.

We like to think we are unique in the way we campaign by putting our supporters in control, giving you the space to discuss the issues that matter to you, while providing important information and tools to help you exercise your rights. We’re always grateful to hear your views on how well we are doing this.

Member

@ldeitz, thanks Lauren. I’ve been without broadband for a couple of days and just catching up so my replies may be out of order with others’ posts. I understand your point but mine was not to duplicate unnecessarily. Citizens Advice have, no doubt, a huge base of consumers to get information and complaints from; Which? also have a particular consumer base – 1 million subscribers and 40 000 Connect members to poll and seek information from. If both have the same objective – better speed information and clearer pricing – then i see little point in them doing it separately – unless they disagree on each others aims. A combined voice might be more effective than fragmented ones.

In just the same way, I want Which? to use the resources of other consumer organisations in Europe to spread the cost of testing so we get more information for less money – once again, why duplicate work that others do – it simply wastes scarce money.

Member
Tubbo says:
28 November 2016

My down load speed 2.48 mb/s and upload 1.02mb/s. It seems that us peasants of Devon do not matter!

Member

Tuddo- check out – https://www.connectingdevonandsumerset.co.uk/ –input your postcode for up to date advice .

Member
The Actual Peasant Internet says:
29 November 2016

Hey you cant be a peasant haha. My download is average of 250 kb/s and upload about 130 kb/s. Wish I lived near you!

Member

Any relation to Wat Tyler TAPI ? if you gather support you could advance on London like he did and demand justice. He did come to a sticky end though, listening to John Ball (cleric) has its disadvantages. You could start off by gathering others of a like mind under the– deprived serfs of the shires association, just dont use the Internet for recruitment or you will all be in the Tower before you know it.

Member

“If you think that is bad.” “Your lucky”. (Monty Python.) Up ere in Cumbria, I have just paid to have an upgrade to 15mb. I get, for a few minutes 2.45mbs, normally around 1.5mbs download and normally 0.3mbs quite often 0mbs upload. The service is so poor BT’s online testing will not give a result.

Member

So, at last, after all the fancy dancing, BT and Openreach really are going to split. A divorce made in heaven some might say. Ofcom are going to enforce the break-up. The question remains though – will all parts of the UK now get faster fibre faster?

Member

Please elucidate John , what you mean is that my worst nightmare is going to take place . BT reduced to a shell , the last independent BRITISH company in this area . What have I warned about –US Hedge Companies owning it -off-shore companies US Big Banks , do you honestly believe Americans will run it better for the same price ? my prediction will come true -your fault broadband is slow ? -hundreds of $$$$ to call out engineer – British Telecom –THE END ! I have spent years on US websites watching what happens there and the vicious – profit first attitude , have you read years of US telecom complaints John -I have , watch prices go through the roof. Britain -no more . No wonder “our Nigel ” has got the nod+wink ” from The Donald to be US Ambassador to Britain. So ,tell me whom is going to cover Britain 100 % in FTTP ?? there are whole areas in the US with no phone /brioadband /cell-net , tell me its a joke ? please !

Member

It’s not a joke Duncan. Openreach will own and operate the network and be responsible for extending fast fibre to as much of the UK as is practicable. BT will be a telecoms service provider, like several others. Openreach will be required to be even-handed to all service providers in rectifying faults and providing connexions. Subscribers will still have to contact their own service provider in the event of a fault or to upgrade their line.

I have not read anything about a change of ownership of BT and I don’t know how the break-up will be organised. Presumably the assets will be divided according to function and Openreach will be floated on the Stock Exchange for anyone to buy the shares.

I think Ofcom are responsible for ensuring that the FTTC roll-out takes place in accordance with government policy using the extra funds being made available.

Through its entry into broadcasting and mobile telephony BT will still be an enormous company; I suspect that Ofcom considered that its sheer size and peripheral activities were getting the better of it. It had been hoped that a voluntary separation would be agreed but BT was reluctant, Ofcom got impatient, and now a legal separation will be imposed, although there is still time for BT to reach a voluntary settlement with Ofcom.

Member

And Openreach will be owned by —- Vodaphone which has massive US backers , big as they come look at the stocks+shares , so one more British company down the tubes , as I have been saying -UK ? – satrap of USA . BT too big ? yes in US BB eyes the very same people who have massive conglomerates running most of the western world . Never mind we always have the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace left thats a tourist industry. One more British utility will be US owned , prediction several years time a whole host of complaints about getting satisfaction from Openreach (UK) , branch of US BB.

Member

Ofcom will separate a telephone service provider [BT] from a network utility company [O/r] and then let Vodafone take control? That wouldn’t make sense. There would be a conflict of interest and a further risk to competition.

Member

Even the Americans arent stupid enough to sell off their telephone network . BT without its external infrastructure that you-me and all the British public paid for is not a telecommunications company in the real sense but just a switching station , he who controls the network is the real owner and it wont be the British public –SOLD -off your last pearl ! it does not take a genius to see what happened to all the other industries sold off after decades but this vital part of UK industry will end up in American hands , mark my words , it might be done subtly a bit at a time but in the end its ownership is heading “over the pond “.

Member

Thanks, John. We’ve added an update on this to the convo that announced Ofcom’s plans in the summer: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/bt-openreach-ofcom-broadband-reforms/

Member

I get a bit tired of Talk Talk and others moaning about the BT/Openreach “monopoly”. As BT invested in the infrastructure I expect them to make a reasonable commercial return on that investment. The others need to also invest in the infrastructure and not just expect all the BT have done in the past to be handed to them on a plate (not for the benefit of consumers, as they claim, but for their profits of course). Perhaps I am being a little cynical, and I don’t lo like monopolies whether private or state. But this issue should be sorted on a commercial basis that is fair to the investors, and not done on political grounds to satisfy “powerful people”.

Member

It shows the priorities if its between – investors and “powerful ” people not a sign of the British public here who are getting a re-insurgence of 1980,s politics- sell of the State jewels –now where is my large portable radio phone to go with my Yuppie accessories , tell me what happens when we run out of things to sell off ? To me its a VERY dark day in Britain and by all accounts going to get worse –for the British public -RIP -BT hello BT (UK) branch office of Washington. Be careful what you wish for it might come true , so all you BT haters just wait a few years but dont complain if the new company makes life hard for the ordinary member of the public .

Member

Bt have checked mine twice recently as it has been so awful. The first time they said the router was faulty and sent a new one, no better by the following week so hours on live chat resulted in a speed test of 750mps against a promised speed of 2000? this means very little to me but apparently is at the bottom end of abysmal. If I want to do something that needs to go through without dropping like on line banking I have to do it in the middle of the night

Member

Val -I wish I had 750Mbps don’t you mean less than 1Mbps ? My advice to you would be to contact BT and tell them you broadband connection is still very slow and tell them an Openreach engineer should check your line for you . Meanwhile plug your router into the Master socket via an Ethernet cable and see if that makes any difference and get back and let me know after a day or two.