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


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.


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.

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.

@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.

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

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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!

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“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.

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?

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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.

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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.

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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/

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”.

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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

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Just to add to this…John Lewis Broadband speeds are average download speeds that are available to at least 50% of John Lewis Broadband customers at peak internet traffic times (8pm to 10pm, Mon-Sun).

Before you sign up, John Lewis Broadband will provide you with an estimation of the broadband speed you will receive. It’s worth bearing in mind that the actual speeds you receive can be affected by the quality of your telephone line, location and weather conditions, network congestion at your local exchange, internal home wiring and the strength of your Wi-Fi signal.


Don’t forget – if people are going to switch they can use our broadband switching tool which gives you ratings based on the feedback of customers. John Lewis scores high with 70% satisfaction.