Clampdown on broadband firms advertising speeds unavailable to most

Broadband firms will no longer be able to claim higher internet speeds which are actually unavailable to the vast majority of customers following a major shake up of how telecoms firms will be allowed to advertise.

Two in five people suffer from a slow internet connection

Advertising authorities said that numerical speed claims in broadband ads should be based on the download speed available to at least 50 per cent of customers at peak time and described in ads as “average”. This marks a change from the current position that advertised “up to” speeds should be available to at least 10 per cent of customers.

A recent report from the Post Office revealed that two in five broadband customers suffer from a slow internet connection, 38 per cent have had their connection drop at random times and around a fifth experience a poor Wi-Fi connection in certain rooms of their homes.

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The guidance, laid out by the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) – the body that writes and maintains the UK’s advertising codes – said that the new guidance would come into force on 23 May 2018 after a six-month implementation period.

Shahriar Coupal, director of CAP, said: “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.

The body said that consumers may currently interpret a range publicised by broadband companies as the speed they are likely to get individually, as opposed to the range that they generally are likely to get.

Richard Neudegg, head of regulation expert at uSwitch.com, said: “Currently 90 per cent of broadband customers can be left disappointed by a service that will seemingly fall short of the speed they’ve seen advertised.

“Whilst this change might reduce the number of consumers that feel let down, the reality is that a national advert can never accurately communicate broadband speeds because speeds are so specific to your individual property.”

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s consumer group director, said: “We’ve been backing this change, which will help close the gap between what broadband shoppers expect and what they actually receive.

“Similarly, we’re improving the information people get before taking out a broadband contract.”