Ofcom calls for crackdown on misleading broadband speed ads

Ofcom is pushing for internet service providers (ISPs) to advertise their “typical download speeds” rather than their maximum to stop customers being misled into thinking they have bought super-fast connections.

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ISPs are currently advertising broadband speeds that are more than double the actual download speeds, according to new Ofcom research.

Ofcom recommends that if speeds are used in broadband advertising, the figures should be based on a typical speeds range so that consumers have a clearer idea about what average speed to expect.

The recommendation is in response to the Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) consultation on broadband advertising. The report is expected in the next three months.

The Advertising Standards Authority called for the review last year following concern about the gap between advertised and actual broadband speeds.

Ofcom says on average, British consumers are receiving average broadband speeds of 6.2 MB per second, which is less than half of the average 13.8 MB speed that is advertised.

Its research looked at 11 packages provided by the seven largest ISPs in the market, including BT, Virgin Media and Sky, which represents over 90% of residential broadband in the UK.

Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards says ISPs need to do more to ensure they are giving customers clear and accurate information about the download speeds they actually provide.

He adds: “It is important that the rules around broadband advertising change so that customers are able to make more informed decisions based on the adverts they see, and that advertisers are able to communicate more clearly how their products compare to others in the market.”

Jon James, executive director of broadband at Virgin Media, says: “Ofcom’s latest report is yet another damning indictment that consumers continue to be treated like mugs and misled by ISPs that simply cannot deliver on their advertised speed claims.”

The Communications Consumer Panel, the independent policy advisory body, has also called for a clear and simple way of advertising broadband speeds to be developed to ensure consumers are not misled.

The Panel says it wants CAP and BCAP to “choose a better, typical speed description which does not use the ‘up to’ descriptor at all and which is presented to consumers in a clear and meaningful way.”

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