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Loading… loading… new advertising rules for broadband finally arrive

Bad broadband

Tomorrow, new rules from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) come into force addressing unrealistic speed claims that have plagued the advertising landscape for years. Will they make a difference?

Last week we released new research showing British households are paying for broadband services that are, on average, 51% slower than advertised. This unfortunately wasn’t a particularly shocking finding for us. In fact we’ve been talking about this since 2014 when we launched our Broadband Speed Guaranteed campaign – calling for a fairer way to advertise speeds to customers.

ASA agrees

The ASA listened to us and went out to consult on the guidelines that were in place. Did you know that, under the rules that go out the window today, providers were able to advertise an “up to” speed, so long as one in 10 of their customers were able to achieve it?

We were thrilled when the ASA ruling followed Which?’s recommendation – that speed claims used in advertisements should be available to at least 50% of customers at peak times.

But Which? – why not 100%!? I hear you cry. It’s a good point, but internet connections can’t be that predictable; anything from the weather, to the amount of people tuning into Netflix at the same time can affect the speed you’re getting. That’s why the inclusion of peak time (which Ofcom measures as between 8-10pm) is very important. It’s no use being able to hit your advertised speed at 5am.

When the ASA announced the changes back in November they gave providers a 6 month window to implement them which has led us to today. After campaigning on this for over four years it feels like it has been a long time coming. We will be watching with interest to see what changes this makes to the broadband landscape.

An important step

While this ruling is a welcome one for fairness and transparency, it won’t of course change the service people are getting when signed up. That’s why our Fix Bad Broadband campaign will continue to push to improve services and access for all. But we are proud to have campaigned with the 125,000 people who supported the campaign to make this change happen.

Providers must now ensure they are compliant with the new rules, and consumers should be able to sign up to broadband packages with more trust in what they’ll be able to get. Personally, I’ll be interested to see whether the advertising landscape shifts as a result. Will we, for example, start seeing advertisements using speeds less, favouring other measures instead? Time will tell.

We want to hear from you. Do you think today’s changes lead to consumers being able to trust their providers to deliver connections as advertised? And were you aware of how little chance you had of achieving the advertised speed when you signed up?

brian says:
24 May 2018

Is 50% enough?
Surely we should now be aiming much higher -75%/90%. As one who lives in the ‘final 2%’, these ‘speed promises’ will still mean nothing..

Totally agree, brian. 75% still leaves 25% who could complain. Equally, of those 75% a good proportion would get speeds far higher than they were expecting. Such speed information seems to me to be of little help.

I think we need to develop the means for anyone to be given a speed range by a potential ISP before they take out a contract. However, people must realise that this is the speed at the entry to their premises. Other factors – internal equipment, wifi, location of equipment, number of users……will affect the achieved speed apart from external factors such as time of day, traffic and such. Simple numbers are not helpful. To be informed that 95% of subscribers will get 4Mb/s (say) or better is not of much value.

I have not seen criticism of estimated speeds, though it would be interesting to know how accurate they re in practice. The industry seems to have brought itself into disrepute by focusing on ‘up to’ speeds that are very unhelpful.

Let’s have honest advertising. Compensation of those who are let down by the claims of their service provider might help focus minds

But ISP’s DO give estimated speeds to individual consumers now. All if most adhere to the OFCOM voluntary code on this. I just don’t understand why Which? seems ignorant of this fact or wilfully ignore it. Get a quote from BT, Vodafone, EE, Talk Talk, Sky and so on and you will see the estimated speed to your premises.

Granted this can only be an estimate; but it is not true to say that consumers are sold e.g. an up to 50mbs package and are not made aware of their own estimated speed.

“I think we need to develop the means for anyone to be given a speed range by a potential ISP before they take out a contract.” On a BT ADSL copper network line, it is already perfectly possible.

I think “people” need to develop better tech knowledge before posting comments

The purpose of a Convo is to give knowledge, and to learn.

I have posted several times that I understand ISPs can give a potential new customer an estimate of their likely speed. Reading earlier comments on this, and on other broadband Convos, would have revealed that.

My comment above was meant to suggest that this should be the way Which? campaigns, rather than the rather unhelpful speed that a % would get – meaning there would be another % who would not get it.

Roy Hicks says:
24 May 2018

i have big concerns that broadband providers can also charge what ever they want & there doesnt seem to be any independent body to legislate their practises

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There is – OFCOM.

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Call me suspicious, but I still think any complaints will result in a cop-out like “Sorry, you’re in the percentage that fails to achieve the advertised speed.” I’ve known businesses that had to re-locate because their broadband speeds wouldn’t support their business. There is still a long way to go to ensure fair coverage.

Why dont they make bt forfill its obligation to provide fibre all over the country, I live in the middle of a town and the people on the main road have it but us who are living away from the road dont and when you ask them why they say they are waiting on the goverment to provide the funds

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Agree Roy. Data connectivity should have been viewed as any utility connection and initially managed by the government. Unfortunately the private is better mantra of the 70’s and 80’s put paid to this.

being rural it is our broadband is very hit and miss why should we be in the 25% that have to pay extra for a bad service.

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Good News. Great Work.

Many Thanks.

Hopefully, BT will no longer be able to promise unrealistic speeds to those of us who live in rural areas. We pay for “up to 20 mbps” & have never got more than 5.

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As far as I’m concerned this can only be stage one in a fight to control the ads in a market that’s riddled with weasel words. Like many others who live in the country I still only get circa 5 mb which means I’m actually paying more for less speed. Let’s stop ads with “from only £x.x a month”. When I phone up I’m told ” sorry not in your area”. I want ads with countryside speeds and countryside prices specified as apart from city speed and city prices.

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Not a moment too soon.

One place the new rules haven’t yet reached is RightMove.
Given the importance of broadband speed when choosing a property to buy, it seems wrong that the old ‘Up to…” description is used. How hard is it for the estate agent or RightMove* to discover the expected and minimum speeds attainable at a given address? Saying it’s up to 76 MB/s covers a real multitude of sins, given that it’s probable set by postcode rather than actual distance from the cabinet or exchange. It’s only when they say there’s FTTP available that you know the quoted speed will be acceptable for most people’s needs, regardless of the range of variation.

This is just as much advertising as it would be in an internet provider’s ad. and should be bound by the same rules.

* Other online property websites are available – and probably doing the same thing!

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Thanks, Duncan. That looks to be a very useful resource.

That’s a good point, Saywell. When I was planning to move home in 2016 I was surprised that there was no mention of broadband speed in the leaflets, brochures and online information about properties on the market. Maybe that’s to avoid possible complaints from those who buy and are disappointed. I obtained estimated speeds on a couple of properties I was interested in.

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Sue Woollard says:
16 July 2018

We live in North London – not a remote part of the country yet our speeds are around 5mps -but we can’t have Infinity because we ‘live too close to the exchange so our copper wired broadband comes direct’ but we can ‘club together with neighbours to buy a green cabinet for our street if we want’ – direct quote from Openreach. They have a green cabinet and Infinity two streets away! I gave BT, of which i admit to being a minor shareholder, an ultimatum that i would renew again this year (until Feb 2019) but if i don’t have Infinity by then, we are off. BUT what do i get today? An email saying BT prices are going up and basically, I can accept them or give 30 days notice (or 14 if going to a competitor who actually can produce the goods). I have just spoken to them – far from helpful script they are working to, and they tell me that if I want to renew my contract early (6 months early, like – today!!) and lock myself in for a further tortuous period of slow broadband, ie 12 months from today, they will be so good as to not put the prices up. That’s it – they are my options!!! This is appalling customer service – they say they work to Openreach’s plans for extension of Infinity – but surely BT is the major customer who can dictate the programme? This is just waffle! Surely a company looks at all the options, puts pressure on it’s suppliers, and if all else fails, then consider putting prices up when people’s contracts end – not 6 months in!!! Disgusted of N London. Off to Virgin!

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I live in North West London, and so far… I’ve used BT infinity at their maximum speed for a long time. Recently, Virgin was added to NW4 at a lower price and now get speeds of over 300mbps. I am disgusted to see that areas like yours are still struggling with 5mbps… Personally I would get a 4G broadband router and package. I’m sure your area is well covered for that.

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The August 2018 issue of Which? magazine refers to the change in advertising of broadband speeds following the introduction of the new advertising rules earlier this year.

I’m glad to see that ‘Up to’ speed has gone at long last and replaced by ‘Average speed’. There is still a need to encourage customers to obtain a speed estimate for their home (or one they are interested in buying) from the ISP, rather than just looking at the advertised packages.

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“I’m glad to see that ‘Up to’ speed has gone at long last“. Well, you might be disappointed. This useful phrase (?) is still perpetuated.
As Which? says in the article “Broadband firms have had to cut by up to 41% the speeds they advertise when selling deals.

I wonder who this really helps? For those who for whom speed is a vital factor then get a personal speed estimate.

Numerical speed claims in broadband ads should be based on the download speed available to at least 50% of customers at peak time and described in ads as ‘average’. I intend to celebrate a step toward greater honesty in advertising.

Perhaps the importance of obtaining a speed estimate should be promoted by the internet service providers.

Not much help to the other 50%. Which half do you belong to? Quoting speed in this way is not a particularly useful statistic to an individual user. Obtaining personal speed estimates seems the sensible way.

To clarify, this was the general “you”, not the commenter 🙂 . Rearranging the deckchairs doesn’t alter the speed we get without either a change to the infrastructure or whether we choose to pay more to move to fibre – up to us.

I wonder, when almost everyone is connected to broadband already, just what all this really has achieved? It does not change the speed I already get. Knowing that the average speed in my area that 50% get is up to 41% less than 10% used to get is not of any real value to me.

Complained to BT. They blamed Openreach. Openreach has admitted there is a fault – to be rectified in 2019. Asked for compensation. Deadlock letter with BT saying Openreach is a different organisation although it is a subsidiary of BT. My contract is with BT who subcontract final service delivery to Openreach. Complained to Ombudsman who says Openreach is not a member (although Openreach says it is) Ombudsman rules say participating companies must include subsidiaries. Ofcom rules say service provider must ensure Openreach rectify faults.Ombudsman Services refuse to adjudicate.
Changing service provider (already tried this) gets us nowhere because last mile is still BT.
Would Which care to investigate this abdication of responsibility by the whole broadband industry?

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