In light of the ASA’s (Advertising Standards Authority) consumer research findings and public consultation, Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) announced, on 23 November 2017, that the current, most commonly used approach to presenting speed claims in broadband ads is likely to mislead consumers. As a result, it is has published new guidance on the advertising of numerical speed claims for residential broadband services, which will take effect from 23 May 2018. Until then, the current guidance will apply, and this Advice Online will be updated when the new guidance comes into force.
Internet providers sometimes offer customers the capacity to check speeds for their specific postcode online. Advertisers should ensure these speeds are accurate. In 2014 the ASA upheld a complaint about BT’s “availability checker” because the speed given for a specific address was not available to that consumer (British Telecommunications plc, 7 May 2014). If figures are an estimate this should be clearly stated and relevant information about possible limitations on speed included.
That said, stating that a figure is an estimate is unlikely to be sufficient if the speeds are generally unlikely to be achieved by consumers. Another checking facility stated “Your estimated speed 3.8 Meg Your estimated speed range is between 2.1 and 5.3meg …” in relation to a location that was found to have a maximum speed of less than 2.1 Mbit/s. Although the ad made clear the speed quoted was an estimate, the ASA considered the accompanying text was not sufficient to make clear that the throughput speeds consumers actually received were likely to vary and that, most of the time, they would be lower than the estimated access line speed range (Talktalk Telecom Ltd, 16 May 2012).
The same principle applies to claims for mobile phones. In 2013 the ASA upheld a complaint about a mobile phone coverage checker that stated a customer would have “excellent” service, when they actually had no mobile phone signal at home and a poor signal outside (EE Ltd, 16 October 2013).
Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA. CAP’s AdviceOnline entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.
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