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UPDATE UK Advertising Watchdog to Restrict Use of UP TO in Broadband Speed Claims

Posted: 26th Sep, 2011 By: MarkJ
uk asa broadband isp advertising codeThe UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) will this week publish new ISP advertising rules to help prevent abuses with how broadband providers promote, often misleadingly, both their internet access speeds and "unlimited" usage allowances.

The ASA/CAP's Code Policy Team has been working on the rules since the first proposals were made during January 2011 (here). Back then some of the "options" included banning ISPs from claiming "unlimited" usage (e.g. when shown alongside a Fair Use Policy (FUP)) and only allowing providers to promote top advertised "up to" speeds that 50% of their existing customers could actually achieve.

A report in the Independent newspaper today strongly suggests that the watchdog has chosen "Option B" for the first part of its new broadband speed rules. Option B stated that any "advertised speeds must be available to at least 10% of users", as opposed to today's method where ISPs usually only promote the top theoretical speed (based on technology).

Advertising of Broadband Speeds (Proposed Options)

Part 1: Speed claims that are likely to be acceptable in advertisements.

* Option A - Maintaining the ASA’s present policy.

* Option B - Advertised speeds must be available to at least 10% of users.

* Option C1 - Advertised speeds may be based on theoretical maximum performance but must be accompanied by an indication of typical performance expressed as a range.

* Option C2 - Advertised speeds may be based on theoretical maximum performance but must be accompanied by an indication of typical performance based on the actual speeds available to at least 50% of users.

* Option D - Quoted speeds must be available to at least 50% of users.


Part 2: Additional information about performance that should be included in advertisements whatever the approach to speed claims.

* Qualifier 1 - Advertised speeds must be qualified with ‘up to’.

* Qualifier 2 - Advertisements must include reference to factors likely to affect the actual speed received by consumers significantly.

* Qualifier 3 - Advertisements must state that consumers can check the actual speed they are likely to receive at the point of sale.
The report alleges that the ASA will also demand ISPs to qualify Option B with a "typical speed" range, specifically a speed that between 20% and 80% of customers can receive. Ofcom and several other consumers groups have called for something similar.

Furthermore the new rules would only apply to services that are delivered over the existing network of old copper based telephone lines (i.e. 'up to' 8Mbps ADSL and 'up to' 20/24Mbps ADSL2+ services). As a result FTTH , Satellite , Fixed Wireless ( Wi-Fi ) and Mobile Broadband based providers would escape the same responsibility.

It's important to stress that the ASA itself has warned that the newspapers report contains some errors, although they have refused to clarify which ones are at fault.

UPDATE 3rd October 2011

In case anybody reading this article missed it, the final rules have now been published (here).
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