Rules on broadband ads are changing

by Dale Wright

What speed do you get from your ISP? Is it anywhere near the speed they were advertising when you ordered your connection?

Are you locked into a contract and unable to cancel, despite not getting the speed you were sold?

An Ofcom survey found that many broadband suppliers that have been advertising 20Mbps speeds are providing less than 7Mbps on average. That’s almost one third of the speed on the posters.

After months of controversy and many complaints to the Advertising Standards Agency, the rules are being tightened by the Committees of Advertising Practice.

In six months’ time, ISPs will no longer be able to advertise a broadband speed if less than 1 in 10 customers can achieve it. Adverts will also have to be more honest about any traffic shaping or speed caps that our ISPs apply to our connections, and should stop advertising these services as ‘unlimited’.

Consumer organisations have long campaigned for a change to advertising regulations. They feel we’re being ripped off and are signing up to long contracts which we cannot get out of.

However, the consumer organisation Which? say that the new rules won’t force ISPs to say that the ‘normal’ speed for a connection might be: as long as one person out of ten can get the top speed, they will be allowed to advertise it for everyone.

Ofcom agreed that they would rather have seen a typical speed in the ads, rather than a top speed which may not be realistic for 90% of people. But Virgin Media’s executive director of broadband, Jon James, said the new regulations are “a big step in the right direction”.

Have you had problems with your connection speed? Do you think this change to advertising rules will make a difference when you choose your next ISP?