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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?


Good news, but doesn’t solve the whole problem & still feel that BB providers put the onus on the customer to site the router close to the telephone entry point & high up, rather than on the floor. Never going to happen as most homes have the main telephone point just inside the front door (nearest & quickest for installation at build stage). Who has space (& power) in a convenient place for a router in their hall & who wants to work in the hall anyway? Also the telephone points are installed at, or just above skirting board level with insufficient cable to plug it in any higher. Still work to be done I fear…

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Many rely on wireless broadband these days, Fiona, and it can work very well. My router is on a small table in the hall and my speed is about 75Mbps anywhere in the house using WiFi. If I had a large old house with thick walls like my family does I would need another box to extend the range. Not everyone is keen on WiFi, which can suffer from interference (affecting range) and is less secure (Duncan can provide details) but many people seem to get on fine with it. Tablets don’t have sockets to connect to a router and many modern laptops don’t either.

We’ve won a battle but not the war for me personally it doesn’t make much difference as I live in rural Aberdeenshire where my broadband is as slow as you get if at all I can’t watch BBC i-player without constant buffering stop start stop start so frustrating

Jeffrey Hughes says:
23 May 2018

Why not 100%. Simply ensure suffuicient available bandwidth.

While I think you have done a sterling job it doesn’t help me. St Just, (Penzance) is awful for Broadband connection and doing this won’t work. However, you’ve done a fantastic job and I congratulate you on it. Linda Hunt

Funny thing and no doubt just a coincidence, but this week my broadband speed has increased by 3 mb – I get nearly half of what I pay for now. Wow!

I do hope the speeds will be speeds Mb/s, rather than memory Mb, which is not the same. I hope they will also realise that 1B = 8b, and learn to use correct SI multiples k/M/G/T. ‘m’ means milli 1/1000, NOT ‘M’ which means mega 1000. ‘K’ is temperature in Kelvin.

I agree about getting prefixes right for SI units, but Mb/s is not an SI unit. Mbps is most frequently used as far as I know.

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I’ve been with Sky for 8/9 years and still only get speeds of around 5.00 Mbps after. Changing everything on my phone line it used to be 0.75=1.00 Mbps back then I was paying £17.00 per month for just broadband then, I use sky broadband phone & what was called a family package.which was until recently costing us £58.00 a month no extra premium channels!! as pensioners we started feeling the pinch but the only channels we watch apart from Nat Geographic History Si Fi we could get on Freeview or Freesat which I have built in our TV,
With a lot of discussion with Sky they finally agreed to reduce our monthly subscription from around £58.00 to £46.00 but loosing loads of children’s & other channels but I was not to concerned, my point is that if you live in a village only one & a half miles from a main town things haven’t improved in all that time but the subscription charges keep going up.i don’t see any chance in our lifetime of getting any better speeds!!

Unless the new standards have some very sharp teeth indeed, I can envisage just a lot more of the same dishonesty. Large, powerful and rich telecoms services providers will have already burned much midnight oil with their ‘hidden persuaders’ ads people to have us believe we are receiving that which we are paying for in the sound knowledge that, in reality, the vast majority of users are unlikely to have a clue if they are receiving genuine value for money, or not. Who are the ‘hidden persuaders? Well, try to obtain a copy and read, if you haven’t already done so, the classic book, Hidden Persuaders’ by the late Vance Packard. Written in the 1950’s it is a pertinent now as it was then. The fact is that marketing con men (or is it ‘persons’ now?) have always existed and their mendacity and skills at deception have been honed to a fine art.

betty says:
23 May 2018

I think standard broadband should be phase out as fibre is the way to go and i have notice that fibre speed has also drop 38 to 10 to21/25/27 and never tell you so good job which

Yes, I am reassured that Which garners consumer support to hold suppliers of any sort to account. Hopefully ISPs will raise their game to offer higher broadband speeds, however, for me the problem is poor connection reliability. I have been with TalkTalk for years and have not suffered from the “features” that give rise to the poor ratings they traditionally get, but over the past few months the number of dropouts per day is most frustrating. I read on the TalkTalk forum that it’s a common experience yet TalkTalk seem to be in contempt of the evidence presented to them. So please, Which, here’s the next challenge to improve broadband satisfaction.

I’m not sure how this will of itself lead to higher broadband speeds, just a different way of advertising them in a way that is not much more helpful.

Well my speed isn’t great 2Mbs if I’m lucky, but what is worse is all the dropouts/disconnections that I get every day, during which time my speed is zero. This frequently causes my email program (OUTLOOK) to hang and it has to be restarted.
Can you imagine going to the pub, paying for a pint and getting a gill and the landlord says he can’t get consistent glasses and there are too many people ordering beer at the same time, but 50% of his customers got almost a pint during the busy period.
If the ISP advertises a speed then it should deliver that speed all the time, I fully understand the technical difficulties but that is not a reason to make false claims.
Having said that until last year I lived in Belgium and for the past 10 years I had consistently high speeds without dropouts. The speed was good enough that I never bothered to check to see what it was.

Have you asked your ISP to investigate the drop outs?

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Indeed so Duncan. It’s just that commenters seem to mention problems and don’t seem to have tried anything to sort things out – phoning 1st line support might help.

[Sorry, your comment has been edited to align with our community guidelines. Please keep comments polite. https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/. Thanks, Alex.]

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jsm drewett says:
23 May 2018

it would be so good to have a better broadband.
my current down load is 0.3 without the phone line attached; 0.18 with the phone line attached
upload is 0.19 without the phone, 0.36 with the phone attached
ping is 440.5 without hte phone, 300.5 with the phone line attached.
a long way from the advertised 30 or 50 advertised by talktalk!
Thank you for your efforts

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Fly-Boy says:
23 May 2018

Virgin Cable broadband good;
Openreach/BT ADSL (that’s what it still is!) terrible.
Simplessssssssssssss Yuri.

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Here is the announcement from the Advertising Standards Authority about the new rules for advertising broadband speeds:

From today [23 May 2018], we will begin to enforce the new, tougher standard on how broadband speed claims can be presented in ads.

The new standard requires that numerical speed claims in broadband ads – across all media including online and social media – should be based on the download speed available to at least 50% of customers at peak time (8pm-10pm) and described in ads as “average”.

The new standard will help consumers better understand what’s on offer when deciding to switch providers. Consumers also need to be aware that there are a range of factors that affect the broadband speed they are going to get in their own home depending on where they live, the broadband technology their provider uses, how many people in one household are using broadband and what they are using it for, for example, streaming.

That’s why the new standard also recommends that speed-checking facilities, for example those provided on internet service providers’ (ISPs’) websites, should be promoted in ads wherever possible.

This marks a change from the previous position that advertised “up to” speeds were acceptable if they were available to at least 10% of customers.

The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) – the body that writes the UK Advertising Codes – introduced the new standard after our research into consumers’ understanding of broadband speed claims. CAP concluded that consumers were likely to be materially misled by the standard previously in place. They then carried out a full public consultation, which showed that a change to the standards was supported by both the evidence and feedback from key stakeholders including consumer groups and ISPs.

CAP considers that median peak-time download speed is the most meaningful speed measure to customers because:

> A median speed, described as “average”, is easily understood and allows for consumers to make comparisons between different ads that they see.

> As peak time is when traffic volumes are highest and traffic management policies are most likely to apply, a peak-time measure provides a better indication of the actual speeds consumers are likely to experience.

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I appreciate the technical problems but if the ISPs are honest about speeds and inform potential customers of the facts about internet services, such as the effect of multiple devices using the same router.

I’m surprised by what you say about WiFi nearly halving connection speed. Maybe it depends on the quality of router and what it is connected to, and certainly interference and distance are factors. But yes, customers need to be told that WiFi can slow down connections and cause other problems.

How we deal with the problem of low speed and sometimes unreliable connections in rural areas, I don’t know, but that’s a separate issue from the need for honest marketing.

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duncan, this is the problem I have with Which? making statements such as “broadband services that are, on average, 51% slower than advertised. “. They appear to take no account of the speed reductions imposed, for example, by the consumer’s equipment and location. If that is the case, the statement is very deceptive as advertised speed is at the input to the property, not at the customer’s computer.

Why Which? cannot spell out the realities and reservations when publicising this sort of “research”, or survey, I don’t know – except it might not make such a good case.

Which?, if I have this wrong and all your speed checks were done at the ISP’s termination I will wholeheartedly apologise 🙂

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You are right Duncan. It’s easy to carry out your own tests with different speed tests and even browsers to see some significant differences.

We average around 380-390Mbps download and roughly 20-24Mb upload with Virginmedia VIVID 350. Yes, our’s should be 350Mbps, but in our area, there is really no competition.

BT/Openreach said to me around 5 years ago that we would have fiber. We were with them 18 months on an ADSL connection, the speed was diabolical. When I phoned them up to cancel my contract with them, the guy on the phone told me that Virginmedia used copper wires for their speeds – what he didn’t know was I was still with Virginmedia and knew all about networking and cybersecurity. When he quoted the speeds, that’s when I let on about their speeds were pathetic, and you lied to me 18 months ago., I wanted nothing more to do with BT.

I am happy with Virginmedia, been with them for years and never really had any issues. Browsing is quicker than normal because I changed our DNS Server addresses to and – these are secure, private and much faster than ISP’s own DNS Servers.

Our typical download speed over 8 consecutive connections is between 40-50Mbps, hence files download quickly. A 1Gb file takes less than a minute!

The BT guy said he could download 5Gb in just over 40 minutes – and pigs must fly!

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It does not seem very fair competition, does it?

naz says:
24 May 2018

It is a better step about broadband speeds

However, those who only get minimum speeds like less than 10 should be charged LESS
as somebody who gets higher speeds.
Charges should be according speed customer gets. Not to pay a sped that customer does not get.

TR says:
24 May 2018

No trust with big business . Same as politicians; make promises they know they cannot or will not keep.
We get ripped off all the time.

Derek Pope says:
24 May 2018

I still think that the best way to resolve this problem is for people to pay for the service they receive. If the charge for (say) 64 Mb is £32 a month, but you are actually getting only 8, then you should only be charged £4 a month. It is a simple concept and would be quite easy (but costly) to implement. Charging for the service actually provided should be standard, then I’m sure the ISP’s would be encouraged to resolve problems to bring speeds up to scratch. We were wired with ALUMINIUM not copper back in the 70’s and there is no incentive for the ISP to resolve that issue.

It would be nice to think speeds had improved but like sugar (all firms have put extra in to say they had put it down), all speeds were and have as I l know got much, much slower so firms can say they have speeded them up. What fraudsters ISP’s are. We’ve had the technology since the 90’s when we first heard about it and laying down fibre cabling was started for the favoured few.. Long trenches from London to Dover were dug but no one knows what was laid in them but it was certainly not fibre. We are still living with the potholes they caused.

My contract with TalkTalk states “up to 17 mbps”. My download speed has been 2.66 for the last week. Last Wednesday at 7.30 a.m. the speed was under 1. That day the customer relations person offered me a fiber optic package( which would double my current bill) but I can’t trust them that my speed will greatly improve when I am not getting anywhere near the speed they currently pretend they can give me. She also said that someone from TalkTalk would telephone me between 8 – 12 noon on Monday after investigating the problem, no-one telephoned. I live in Pimlico.

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