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Broadband speed advertising needs overhaul, says consumer watchdog

Which? wants stricter rules on advertising broadband speeds, given that now the rates can apply to just 10 percent of customers.

Broadband speed is one of the most important factors when choosing an internet service provider, but internet users aren't being helped by the way speeds are advertised.

Just five percent of people in the UK believe the way broadband speeds are advertised is clear and straightforward. Under current rules, an advertised broadband speed only need apply to 10 percent of customers to be valid. However,  only 12 percent of customers are aware of this - the vast majority of users believe that the claims are intended to apply to most customers, according to research by consumer association Which?.

It said consumers had told it they consider speed to be the second most important factor influencing their choice of broadband offer, only beaten by price. And 88 percent of those surveyed said an accurate speed should be shown in adverts.

Which? tested how speeds are presented to consumers and found that a quarter of people would choose a different deal if they had better information on their broadband speed. "Speed also becomes around three times more important to people when choosing a broadband package when it is presented based on the speed [that] 90 percent of customers would get, rather than the 10 percent [currently]," said Which?.

The consumer watchdog wants advertised broadband speeds to more closely match the actual experience of the majority of customers. As part of its campaign to get more transparency in broadband speeds, it wants the two advertising watchdogs - the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcasting Committee of Advertising Practice - to review their guidelines on speed claims made in broadband advertisements.

In particular, Which? is calling for three changes:

  • All adverts making speed claims, like 'superfast', should be quantified.
  • Advertised speeds should be available to the majority of customers, not just to a minority.
  • Broadband providers should be upfront about how many people can actually get the speed advertised.

"We want advertising watchdogs to pull the plug on confusing adverts and ensure broadband providers show the speeds the majority of customers will actually get," said Which? executive director Richard Lloyd. "In the meantime, companies need to be more up-front with customers about the speeds they can expect."

Which? is asking consumers to sign its petition as part of its campaign against unclear advertised broadband speeds.

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