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Advertising Broadband Changes - Speed and Unlimited Use Claims

# 29 September 2011, 10:14 by cfteam

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), in response to a request from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), has produced a new Code of Practice affecting broadband and other telecommunications advertising. The code will be effective from April 2012.

The new broadband code requires

  • If a maximum speed claim is made, advertisers should be able to demonstrate that the speed is achievable for at least 10% of customers.

  • Advertisers should also include in the ad appropriate, additional information to accompany a maximum speed claim to ensure the average consumer is not misled. Where relevant, this includes information that bears out that a significant proportion of subscribers receive a speed that falls considerably short of what consumers might reasonably expect the service to offer.

Services can only be described as unlimited where

  • The user incurs no additional charge or suspension of service as a consequence of exceeding a usage threshold associated with a ‘fair usage policy’ (FUP), a traffic management policy or similar; and

  • Limitations that do affect the speed or usage of the service are moderate only and are clearly explained in the advertisement.

Virgin Media who had run their “Stop the Broadband Con” campaign until that fell foul of the ASA have welcomed this new code. “The new rules are a big step in the right direction and the greater transparency will ensure people can make more informed choices.” said John James, Broadband Executive Director.

But there is some concern that code remains in sufficient. Consumer organisation Which? are unimpressed and have told the BBC “Unlimited should mean unlimited at your normal broadband speed, but internet service providers will be allowed to slow down a supposedly ‘unlimited’ connection once a customer goes over a certain threshold.” Which consider that Ofcom should now intervene as the advertising regulators have failed.

It appears that the Code of Practice will continue to allow the abuse of the term “unlimited” to describe services like Virgin Media’s broadband, that can be subject to speed throttling. At Cable Forum we would ask how the dictionary definition of “unlimited” reconciles with the statement made to the BBC by CAP chairman James Brest “Advertising is only effective if consumers trust the messages they see and hear.”

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