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ASA will soon rule on ’90pc fraud’ broadband speed ads, fibre

Tuesday, 4 April, 2017

The body that deals with standards in advertising in the UK has launched a new review of broadband speed ads after cross-party political condemnation.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will now investigate whether broadband providers really are “complicit in fraud” by claiming broadband speeds that 90 per cent of consumers cannot get.

The use of the term “fibre broadband” – for services that aren’t really fully made up of fibre cables but include copper in the mix as well – is also under investigation.

The ASA says it is “pleased” that ISPs have adopted new standards on pricing – combining the costs of line rental and broadband so as not to mislead customers to the total monthly cost of packages.

Price comparison sites like BroadbandDeals.co.uk are vital in helping calculate the total cost of broadband.

“We believe it is now much easier for people to see how much they will pay, when shopping around for a new broadband package,” say the ASA.

Broadband speed ads: ‘Up to 17Mbps’ doesn’t mean you get 17Mbps

Currently ISPs are allowed to sell broadband packages by advertising that buyers will receive ‘up to’ a certain speed. You’ll see this as ‘up to 17Mbps’ for the cheapest lines, going as far as ‘up to 76Mbps’ for faster services.

But the ridiculous state of affairs in the advertising code means that only 10 per cent of consumers have to be able to achieve that speed for it to be legal.

Matt Warman MP composite superfast broadband header

Guide: What broadband speed do I need?

In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with BroadbandDeals.co.uk, Matt Warman MP laid out the pitfalls and problems of this approach.

Matt, a former technology editor with the Daily Telegraph, brought the matter to Westminster Hall back in March.

It stirred up debate with the government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) who look after broadband in the UK.

Exclusive: Matt Warman MP in-depth on broadband speed ‘fraud’

Matt told us: “There is no other industry where you buy something and think, ‘Well I might get it, or I might not’.

“There are commercial interests from the service providers where there is huge advantage to them in being able to say that a speed is significantly higher than that which is actually received.

“Actually all it’s done has undermine faith in broadband providers, has undermined faith in those adverts full stop.”

The ASA’s sister body, the Committee of Advertising Practice, are the ones who write the rules for ISPs to follow.

The ASA now say they will judge on how to “tighten standards” on broadband speed ads with an announcement expected in the next few weeks.

More: BT tops worst broadband complaints as numbers soar

Fibre broadband doesn’t mean full-fibre broadband

Companies are allowed to sell you fibre broadband even if the line is not fully fibre.

That means you could be paying for superfast broadband services even if you can’t get superfast at your home.

This is despite the DCMS’s 2017 Digital Strategy saying that fibre should only be used to sell full-fibre broadband, not part-fibre and part-copper.

Say the ASA: “The term ‘fibre’ is currently used in advertising to describe both part-fibre and full-fibre broadband services.

Guide: How important is your router? Is it worth upgrading?

Their investigation, due to report by August this year, is expected to say that ISPs are misleading people by making these claims.

The ASA add: “In particular, we will be considering whether the use of that term is likely to cause people to be materially misled.

“Our work has already begun and we will provide an update with more information by the summer.”

Tom Rodgers author picture


Tom is a tech journalist and former Editor at BroadbandDeals.co.uk.

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