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Brits Still Seek Clampdown on Misleading Broadband ISP Adverts

Monday, Feb 4th, 2013 (8:37 am) - Score 1,005

The results from 846 respondents to ISPreview.co.uk’s latest monthly reader poll have found that 89% still feel that big broadband ISPs are continuing to mislead consumers with their advertising practices, especially in regards to promotions of internet service speed and pricing. Time for tougher rules perhaps.

The news comes almost a year after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) introduced new rules to clamp down on misleading ISP promotions of broadband speeds and “unlimited” style usage allowances, which has seen some providers remove references to speed altogether and can sometimes make it even harder to tell the difference between packages.

Do you think big ISPs still mislead consumers in their broadband adverts?
Yes – 88.8%
Maybe – 7%
No – 4%

In which area do ISP ads still mislead the public about most?
Speed / Performance – 75%
Price – 12.8%
Reliability – 6.8%
Support – 5.2%

Should the advertising watchdog be given more power to punish repeat offenders?
Yes – 97.3%
No – 2.6%

What would be the best punishment?
Financial Penalty (Fine) – 53.3%
Forced Review of New Ads – 24.1%
Temporary External Ad Ban – 19.3%
Keep Current ASA Rules – 3.1%

Unfortunately tackling repeat offenders, such as big ISPs like Virgin Media (the most advert bans by far), BT, TalkTalk and Sky Broadband, is a difficult task and as a result some ISPs have continued to publish misleading promotions, safe in the knowledge that the ASA’s punishment will usually amount to little more than a slap on the wrists; but by then the damage has often already been done. As a result it’s little wonder that respondents want to see tougher sanctions to discourage abuse, although the advertising watchdog has a different view.

A Spokesperson for the ASA told ISPreview.co.uk:

We do not subscribe to the argument that an ‘ideal world’ involves fines; there is no evidence to suggest that makes for a more effective sanction or deterrent. Our preferred approach to regulation is prevention rather than cure. We work to help advertisers get their ads right.”

In fairness the ASA, while not a statutory body (i.e. no power to issue fines), does have the ability to impose sanctions. For example, the ASA could prohibit media space to an advertiser, withdraw trading privileges (e.g. discounts on bulk mailings) and can even refer serious offenders to their legal backstops (e.g. Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading) for statutory sanctions. Never the less some ISPs continue to be break the rules.

This month’s new survey asks how would you rate the current UK government’s progress towards its 2015 broadband goals? Vote Here.

Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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