Crackdown on misleading broadband advertising


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The advertising regulator will this week order broadband companies to give customers a more accurate picture of the speed they can receive, following an eight-month investigation.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will only allow broadband companies to advertise speed claims if 10 per cent of their customers can actually receive that level of service.

The regulator dubbed the move a "significant tightening" of its existing policy and said it had taken the steps to ensure advertisements "do not mislead, including by the omission of important information". It is understood that the ASA could release its full conclusions as early as tomorrow after circulating the preliminary results of the consultation to the industry.

The findings follow criticism from the telecoms watchdog Ofcom over the difference between the speeds companies advertise and those they can actually provide. The ASA first looked at the issue of misleading speed claims in advertising last year, and launched an investigation in January.

The broadband providers are understood to have unanimously agreed to the key 10 per cent provision. Yet the regulator has acknowledged this may not be enough, and will also demand that providers include the speed range that between 20 per cent and 80 per cent of their customers receive.

The ASA's preliminary report, which has been seen by i, said that in the advertising "the omission of important information may cause the average consumer to make a transactional decision he would not otherwise have taken".

The regulator would not confirm the exact date of publication, but had set a deadline of before the end of this month. A spokesman said an announcement would be made this week, although he did hint there might be a delay.

Elsewhere in the report, the ASA will demand the average speed must also be in the main part of the advert, not hidden away in the terms and conditions. One provider has already criticised the "typical speed range" element saying it was "confusing at best".