Back in June, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that Virgin Media had overstepped the mark in its ‘Stop the broadband con’ campaign, but it seems the sentiments behind the campaign have struck a chord.
As the BBC reports, the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP), the body responsible for writing advertising codes in the UK, has ruled that from April 2012 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can only advertise a specific maximum speed if 10% of customers can actually receive it.
CAP has also moved to make ISPs be clearer about data caps, meaning that the fair-use policies that underpin many ‘Unlimited’ plans will need to be more clearly explained.
UK ISPs typically advertise ‘up to’ speeds to lure customers in, though they have come in for increasing criticism in recent years for failing to deliver these speeds to the vast majority of their customers.
Ofcom recently found that many services advertised speeds of ‘up to 20Mbps’, when in fact the average speed was less than 7Mbps. Indeed, previous studies by Ofcom have found that only 14% of customers on broadband services advertised as ‘up to 20Mbps’ received speeds of over 12Mbps.
There has been growing pressure from industry and consumer groups to change the way they sell broadband, and James Best, CAP Chariman, said:
“This new guidance directly responds to consumer concerns by setting an appropriately high bar for advertisers who want to make speed and unlimited claims in ads. Advertising is only effective if consumers trust the messages they see and hear”.
In effect, this means that if 1 in 10 customers can receive an advertised speed, this will still be within the regulations, so this probably won’t change too much.
Back in July, Ofcom reported that the average UK broadband speed had increased by 10% in the past 6 months. However, it still found a big disparity between the actual and advertised broadband speeds. Here’s what it found across the main UK ISPs:
Many industry and consumer groups have previously called for ‘average’ speeds to be advertised rather than the absolute maximum which may only be available to a small percentage. Ofcom said in a statement to the BBC:
“We are disappointed that it appears not to be possible to establish a single, clear and consistent ‘Typical Speed Range’. Our view is that this is the best way to ensure that consumers are able to compare the wide range of packages that are available”.