ASA rules on major broadband advertising changes across the UK

Britain's broadband providers are facing major changes in their advertising following a clampdown on campaigns promising better-than-promised download speeds.

A ruling by the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) has said that ISPs will have to alter their advertising to more realistically depict speeds that customers should expect.

The move follows an investigation by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), which responded to multiple customer complaints that the speeds they were promised by advertising from their ISP never actually materialised in their homes.

Under the new rules, speed claims in broadband adveritising will have to be based on the download speed available to at least 50 percent of customers at peak time and described in ads as “average”.

The change, set to be introduced from May 2018, will replace the current “up to” speed claims that are available to at least 10 percent of customers, and CAP has also said that ISPs will have to start promoting speed-checking tools within advertising in order to encourage customers to make sure they get the right speeds.

"There are a lot of factors that affect the broadband speed a customer is going to get in their own home; from technology to geography, to how a household uses broadband," said Shahriar Coupal, director of CAP.

"Our new standards will give consumers a better understanding of the broadband speeds offered by different providers when deciding to switch providers."

The change was also backed by minister for digital Matt Hancock, who told the BBC that it was a "victory for consumers".

"I'm delighted to see that Cap is finally changing the way broadband speeds are advertised. Headline 'up to' speeds that only need to be available to 10 per cent of consumers are incredibly misleading - customers need clear, concise and accurate information in order to make an informed choice," he added.

The ASA also ruled on the use of the word 'fibre' in broadband advertising following claims that it was misleading for firms that did not provide FTTP services to include the phrase in their advertising. However despite stating that although many customers now see 'fibre' as a "shorthand buzzword" for superfast connections, the body said that it was not misleading for ISPs to keep using the term.