No plans to kill off “up to” broadband ads

Broadband providers will continue to be able to advertise “up to” speeds under new proposals issued by the advertising watchdogs.

No plans to kill off

At the request of the Advertising Standards Authority, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and its broadcast sibling (BCAP) have unveiled suggestions for how to improve the accuracy and clarity of broadband ads, but it’s very much more of the same.

“The ASA presently requires speed claims to be qualified with the phrase ‘up to’,” the consultation document said. “CAP and BCAP do not propose a change to that practice.”


It’s time to redefine “broadband”

Instead, the ads groups are proposing changing how the main advertised speed is decided. Of the five alternatives it’s proposing, the first is merely keeping the current policy, whereby ISPs must make it clear in the small print that many customers aren’t likely to get the “up to” speed.

The second idea would mean ISPs can only advertise a speed that at least 10% of customers can achieve.

The third idea allows ISPs to advertise a theoretical maximum, but they must clearly show the real-life performance. Under the fourth proposal, that could be toughened up, requiring at least half of users to get the typical speed.

The last, and strongest, suggestion would require ISPs to only quote a speed if at least half of customers could actually get it.

All adverts will need to make it clear that the top stated speed may not be available for all users, explain in the small print what could affect speeds, and tell consumers they can check their likely connection speed before signing up.

“Unlimited” advertising

The ads bodies are also considering changes to how the phrase “unlimited” is used, mostly in mobile broadband. Current policy allows use of “unlimited” data alongside a fair use policy (FUP), so long as it’s clearly stated and only affects a minority of users.

However, the watchdogs are looking to tweak the system, after complaints that the FUP had been abused. Earlier this month, public pressure caused T-Mobile to U-turn on plans to cut back its fair use policy that applied to existing customers.

The ads boards are considering excluding companies from using “unlimited” in their advertising at all if they charge or cut services when customers exceed the FUP, or use customer-specific traffic management.

It’s also considering taking it a step further, and banning the use of the term in ads for companies that have any fair use policy at all.

Both sets of proposals are now in the consultation stage, and any comments must be submitted by 25 February.

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