Pull the plug on confusing broadband advertising

As part of our “Give us broadband speed guaranteed”campaign, Which? is calling for tighter guidelines on broadband advertising as we reveal companies are promising ‘up to’ speeds that are guaranteed for just 10% of customers.

Currently the speeds quoted in broadband adverts only need to apply to 10% of customers to meet advertising guidelines, but our new research found just one in ten (12%) people are aware of this rule.

Consumers told us they consider speed to be the second most important factor influencing their choice of broadband deal (88%) – beaten only by price at 94%, with nine in ten (88%) believing that speed should be shown in adverts. However only 5% of people agreed that the way speed is currently advertised is the clearest way.

We tested how speeds are presented to consumers and found a quarter (25%) of people would choose a different deal if they had better information on their broadband speed. Speed also becomes around three times more important to people when choosing a broadband package when it is presented based on the speed 90% of customers would get, rather than 10%.

Which? wants advertised broadband speeds to more closely match the actual experience of the majority of customers.

We want advertising watchdogs, The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and The Broadcasting Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) to review guidelines on speed claims made in broadband advertisements to require:

•      All adverts making speed claims, like “superfast” to quantify these claims

•      Advertised speeds to be available to the majority of customers, not the minority

•      Broadband providers to be upfront about how many people can actually get the speed advertised

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:

“Internet connection is now an essential part of modern life so it beggars belief that providers can sell people short by advertising speeds that only 10% of customers could receive.

“We want advertising watchdogs to pull the plug on confusing adverts and ensure broadband providers show the speeds the majority of customers will actually get.

“In the meantime, companies need to be more up-front with customers about the speeds they can expect.”

Which? is calling on the public to support our campaign against unclear broadband advertising speeds by signing our petition at www.which.co.uk/bbads

Notes to Editor

1. Research investigating consumer attitudes to choosing broadband and the presentation of broadband speeds in advertisements: Populus, on behalf of Which? interviewed 2,339 UK adults online, between 17th and 18thSeptember 2014. Data was weighted to be representative of the UK adult population. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

2. Consumer testing of how speeds are presented – Populus, on behalf of Which? carried out an interactive test with 2,074 UK adults online, between 26th and 28th September 2014. We asked people to choose between six broadband deals. Each deal consisted of a brand name, a speed and a price (and the length of the contract which was 12 months for all choices). Respondents were asked to choose which package they would buy. This test was repeated five times per person, with speed being presented in a different manner each time:

– Non numerically (e.g. Infinity or Superfast etc)

– ‘up to xx Mb’

– ‘up to xx Mb’ with an asterisk to the statement: ‘*The speeds that at least 10% of customers can expect to receive’

– ‘xx Mb’ with an asterisk to the statement: ‘*The speed that a majority of customers (ie 51% or more) of customers can expect to receive’

– ‘xx Mb’ with an asterisk to the statement: ‘*The speed that at least 90% of customers can expect to receive’

The results were analysed by creating a statistical model of each task and comparing the results between them.

3. Which? has previously called on broadband providers to give customers the speed and service they pay for after finding that around three in five (63%) people experience problems with their broadband.

4. Visit the Which? Consumer Rights website to see our guide on how to complain about your broadband speed

5. Visit the Which? broadband speed checker to find out the real speed of your connection.

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