The weekly ASA adjudications have been published, and while the adjudication is upheld against TalkTalk in this case, the fact that it revolves around the operators website based line speed checker that all providers signed up to the Ofcom Voluntary Speeds Code of Practice need to use on their website has implications across the industry.
A speed checking facility, for a broadband service, was viewed on 10 December 2011 on the talktalk.co.uk website. When the complainant entered his postcode, it stated 'Your estimated speed 3.8 Meg Your estimated speed range is between 2.1 and 5.3meg ...'
The complainant challenged whether the ad was misleading, because he was a Talk Talk customer and had been informed that the maximum speed available to him was less than 2.1 Mbit/s.
We noted that some speed issues experienced by consumers could relate to their own particular circumstances and, to that end, the complainant's issue might be a customer service one, rather than an indication of the general reliability of the line checker. However, because we had not seen directly relevant evidence to support the impression that was likely to be taken from the ad – that the speed checker was indicative of the likely actual throughput speeds consumers would achieve in the majority of cases – we concluded that the ad breached the Code. "Extract from ASA adjudication
The premise of the line checkers is to provide a pre-activation estimate of what a line can achieve, i.e. something that is within the ball-park for a particular phone line. In this case the complainant received an estimate previously that appears to have changed, though looking at the figures it is possible that old estimate received may have been from a time when checkers only ever showed one figure rather than a range. A key point missing from the ASA adjudication, is that the checkers have no influence on what actual speeds you will receive, the checker is simply a database that is mainly fed from Openreach line length data.
Where there is a potential problem for almost all providers now is that the ASA has ruled the checker needs to be very clear whether it is talking about access line speeds, or throughput. The ASA appears to be leaning towards providers having to quote actual throughput speeds. In theory this is easy enough, just reduce any estimate by around 15%, but with the recent advertising changes that say advertised speeds drop, one wonders if this enforced shuffling is more confusing to the general public.
The DSL based services (ADSL, ADSL2+ and VDSL2) are all heavily influenced by the wiring in the home, and even if magically the UK got full fibre overnight, there would be still be broadband speed complaints, as throughput rather than line length would become the biggest factor.