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ASA UK Says Broadband ISP Speed Complaints Have Dropped by Half

Wednesday, Jan 27th, 2016 (8:16 am) - Score 355

It’s nearly four years since the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) first introduced tougher rules to tackle misleading promotions of broadband ISP speed (here) and the organisation seems unlikely to toughen its stance again, especially with related complaints falling by half. Meanwhile Ofcom’s new speed rules are about to be enforced.

The rules, or guidelines if you prefer, state that ISPs should be able to demonstrate that the broadband speeds in their advertising can be achieved by at least 10% of their customers and any factors that could impact those speeds should be clearly stated, with qualifications if needed.

Since then there have also been various rulings about the impact of Traffic Management measures on broadband speed, which ultimately forced Virgin Media to scrap their related TMP policy for broadband downloads (here); although some restrictions remain on their uploads.

On top of that Ofcom are about to enforce the latest Version 3.0 of their Broadband Speed Code of Practice upon UK providers (details) from 31st January 2016, which will allow consumers to exit their contract – penalty free – at any time if the speeds being delivered fall below the Minimum Guaranteed Access Line Speed (MGALS); this reflects the speeds achieved by the slowest 10% of an ISP’s customers (ISPs must however be given a chance to solve the problem first).

Suffice to say that the market is now much stricter and thus it’s a lot harder for ISPs to mislead consumers about broadband speeds in their advertising, although in fairness most providers are beholden to BTOpenreach’s national network and its many limitations that can impact connectivity performance (sadly Openreach are not directly held to account by similar rules). Never the less the ASA appears to be happy and has noticed a huge fall in related complaints.

Guy Parker, CEO of the ASA, told The Guardian:

We acted [and] there was an improvement in the clarity of speed claims in ads and complaints to the ASA have fallen by half. The market has moved on and relatively few broadband ads now mention specific speeds. But we remain open to considering and responding to good evidence that those claims are misleading people.”

The comments were made in reaction to last week’s remarks from Virgin Media (here), which were actually in response to the ASA’s investigation of broadband pricing and not Internet speeds. Virgin remains unhappy with the current rule and believes that the 10% measure is not tough enough. “The ASA needs to overhaul the outdated rules on broadband speed advertising,” said Virgin Media without proposing a clear alternative.

Similarly the Which? consumer magazine has also been quite vocal on the need to further tighten the rules governing how broadband speeds are advertised (here), although their calls for a Guaranteed Speed might be somewhat challenging and could raise the price of service provision (such a feature is normally reserved for business lines).

However for the time being the ASA appears to be happy with the current approach.

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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