The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), a sister organisation to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), has launched a consultation that will be open for ten weeks revolving around proposals to change the way broadband services are advertised. Up until now, broadband providers have been allowed to advertise their services as reaching certain speeds if at least 10% of their customers receive it and the advert uses the words “up to”. The proposals involve the possibility of broadband providers being required to base their adverts on any of the following: Peak-time median download speed, 24-hour national median download speed; range of peak-time download speeds available to the 20th to 80th percentile of users; range of 24-hour national download speeds available to the 20th to 80th percentile of users.
Shahriar Coupal of CAP said: “Research commissioned by the ASA persuades us that tougher standards are needed to prevent consumers from being misled by advertised broadband speed claims.” Matthew Hancock, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, also praised the proposals.
However, some have raised concerns about the proposals. Virgin Media are concerned with the proposals as the measures are underpinned by a sample taken between 8pm to 10pm. Yet Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Virgin Media Brigitte Trafford highlighted that: “Consumers are telling us that if the ASA is serious about making broadband advertising clearer, the new rules should be based on average speeds measured across a full day, rather than just taking a two-hour sample.”
Furthermore, the proposals ignore niche providers such as those that focus on a particular area or providing broadband to small businesses and seems to focus entirely on those that provide coverage for the entire UK. It is unclear how the proposals work in such an event, and furthermore, how like-for-like comparisons can be drawn between such providers catered in a particular market segment and providers that provide national broadband coverage.
Research by ICM also finds that most people do not know when “peak time” is, with only five percent of respondents in their study knowing that it is between 8pm to 10pm. Jan Jesenovec, associate director at ICM, expressed fears such proposals could compound confusion among customers. This fear was also raised by Till Sommer of the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA). He said: “We will now be working closely with our members to study the alternative options in detail and to ensure that the new broadband advertising standards provide consumers with a clear expectation of the speeds they are likely to receive, while also supporting the growth and development of the already very competitive and dynamic broadband market in the UK.”