UK broadband speed ad rules to be revamped

Internet speed graphic Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Consumers told the ASA they were confused by current broadband-speed adverts

UK broadband companies will be made to change the way they advertise their internet speeds, under regulator plans.

The Advertising Standards Authority says current descriptions of speeds "up to" a certain amount are confusing and will be changed in 2017.

However, the UK watchdog has yet to decide how they will be replaced.

Digital Minister Matt Hancock said he was "delighted" by the move because the current adverts were "incredibly misleading".

The announcement comes just over a fortnight after internet providers were ordered to make other changes to their adverts, to make monthly charges clearer.

The industry gave a guarded welcome to the latest announcement.

"Any new guidance needs to reflect that whilst speed is an important factor, it is not the only reason a customer decides on a deal," said James Blessing, chair of the Internet Services Providers' Association Council.

"Crucially, the ASA's research has not identified an effective alternative for the current approach to 'up to' speed claims."

'No silver bullet'

At present, a broadband company can tell customers they will get "up to" a certain speed, if a minimum of 10% of all subscribers on the tariff achieve it.

But the ASA says a survey carried out on its behalf indicated that while most consumers understood a higher number was better, they were still unclear what speed they would likely achieve.

Moreover, the watchdog says users demonstrated a low level of understanding of what speeds they needed to carry out daily online tasks.

"Clearly the current guidance isn't doing the job, but there's no silver-bullet solution," a spokesman for the ASA told the BBC.

"There are pros and cons to all the alternatives."

The three main options considered to date are to give:

  • the average speed
  • the range of possible speeds
  • the minimum speed

The plan is now to hold a short consultation before deciding upon a solution in the spring.

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