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CAP puts the brakes on broadband speed claims

New guidance issued by the Committee of Advertising Practice ("CAP") signals a major change in the way that broadband providers can market their speed claims.

Up until now, providers used "up to" speed claims, such as "up to 300mbps", meaning that such speeds had to available to at least 10% of their customers. The guidance follows concerns that these types of claims were likely to materially mislead consumers. Top speeds achieved by 10% of consumers at off-peak times is not representative of the actual experience of the average consumer, particularly during peak hours. Therefore, following consumer research by the Advertising Standards Authority and a public consultation, new rules have been put in place.

The public consultation sought responses from a wide audience, including major ISPs, a trade body representing over 200 ISPs, consumer groups, think tanks and Ofcom. Respondents unanimously supported change.

The new rules now require that numerical broadband speed claims must:

  • relate to the speed that is available to at least 50% of customers;
  • at peak time (defined by Ofcom as 8-10pm);
  • be described in advertising as "average" speeds; and
  • make clear any significant factors that could limit speeds achieved by customers.

In addition to this, CAP recommends that wherever possible broadband providers should promote broadband speed checking facilities (such as though available from ISPs) in their ads.

The guidance will take effect on 23 May 2018 after a six-month implementation period, and will apply to residential broadband services.

The full guidance is available on the CAP website.


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