ASA rules to ban 'up to' broadband speed claims

November 24, 2017 // 11:15 a.m.

Tags: #advertising #advertising-standards-authority #asa #broadband #fibre-broadband #up-to #weasel-words

The Advertising Standards Authority has issued new guidance which will prevent broadband providers from using speeds available to only a minority of their customers using the weasel-words 'up to', requiring instead that only median peak-time download speeds are used.

The use of 'up to' in telecommunications advertising is nothing new: Since the days of dial-up modems internet service providers (ISPs) have been compensating for the varying quality of signal received by subscribers by advertising the peak possible speed as an 'up to' maximum limit. Current UK advertising regulations accept this technique, even if only 10 percent of the company's customers are able to achieve these speeds.

Under new guidance to come into place in May next year, though, ISPs will no longer be able to advertise using these minority peak speeds. All UK ISPs will instead be required to use the median download speed achieved across its customer base at peak times, which will be described as the 'average' speed available.

'There are a lot of factors that affect the broadband speed a customer is going to get in their own home - from technology to geography, to how a household uses broadband. While we know these factors mean some people will get significantly slower speeds than others, when it comes to broadband ads our new standards will give consumers a better understanding of the broadband speeds offered by different providers when deciding to switch providers,' claims Shahriar Coupal, director of the Committees of Advertising Practice. 'We continually review our standards to make sure they reflect consumers’ experiences, the technology available and the evidence base to make sure our standards are in the right place. Following extensive research and consultation, we hope our new standards will improve customer confidence in future ads.'

At the same time the ASA ruled that it is acceptable for ISPs like Virgin and BT to advertise their broadband connectivity as 'fibre' or 'fibre optic', even though the last-mile connection to homes and businesses is typically via twisted-pair or coaxial copper cabling.

The new guidance, which can be found in full on the ASA website, comes into force on May 23rd 2018.


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