ASA brings new broadband speed claims rules into effect

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will enforce new, tougher rules on broadband ads from today.

The watchdog has begun to implement new regulations – announced late last year – which mean that broadband speed claims in ads across all media should be based on download speeds actually available to at least 50% of customers.

The ASA, and the Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP), which writes the UK Advertising Codes, said that speed claims must be based on peak-time usage, and described in ads as ‘average’, in contrast to previous rules which allowed brands to advertise ‘up to’ speeds if they were available to 10% of customers.

The rules are aimed at helping customers better understand their options when considering whether to switch broadband providers. The new standards also recommends that brands promote speed-checking facilities, so that consumers may consider factors that affect actual broadband speeds in their home.

Guy Parker, the chief executive of the ASA, said: “From today, consumers will see a difference in broadband ads that make claims about speed as this new, tougher standard is enforced. We’ll be making sure consumers aren’t misled by speed claims in ads, not least because choosing the right broadband deal has become such a n important part of running a household or business.”

A spokesperson for TalkTalk told The Drum: “We welcome efforts to simplify broadband pricing. While average speeds are a useful guide, what customers really want is a guaranteed speed specific to their home. We already provide that at the point of sale, meaning customers can be certain about the speeds they will receive before they buy the product.”

A BT spokesperson said: “BT welcomes the changes, which we believe will help customers. It’s important customers know they’ll receive the advertised speed in peak time when there are the highest demands on the network. We will continue to provide personalised speed range estimates as part of our sales process, so that individual customers know clearly what is possible for their home connection.”

Meanwhile, a Virgin Media spokesperson said: “We welcome the ASA’s changes which will provide consumers with long overdue clarity. We believe in being straight up on speed – that’s why we repeatedly called for a change to unfair and misleading advertising rules. At last, the majority of customers will now know what speeds they can realistically expect from their broadband provider, not just a small minority.”

The new rules were drawn up by the CAP and the ASA, following research which revealed that consumers were likely to be misled by broadband speed claims. The CAP carried out a full public consultation prior to writing the new rules.