Consumer panel call for a ban on use of 'up to' in broadband advertising
The communications consumer panel (CCP) have responded to the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) consultation on the use of the words 'up to' in broadband advertising, proposing that advertisers should be banned from using the phrase at all. The ASA launched a review into advertising practice within the broadband industry last year, in relation to how products are described in terms of broadband speeds and usage limits, in the hope of avoiding consumers being mislead by terms such as 'unlimited' and 'up-to'.
Various proposals were put forward in the consultation document, including keeping the current policy used by the ASA, or restricting the use of speeds that are quoted to ensure that they are available to a certain proportion of users connected to the service advertised. Unfortunately, the CCP seem to be taking a simplistic approach to this, calling for the abolishment of being able to use 'up to' in describing speeds and instead requiring broadband providers to only quote a single speed qualified by a description of what proportion of users can get this speed.
"The current approach of advertising 'up to' broadband headline speeds is no longer credible or sustainable and is causing widespread scepticism amongst consumers. I would like to see 'up to' replaced by a typical speed description, such as 'half of our customers receive at least xMb.'"Anna Bradley, (Chair) Communications Consumer Panel
The listing of a single speed as proposed here by the CCP will itself be misleading and will restrict information available to consumers who are looking for broadband services. ISPs under CCP proposals will be restricted to either stating a high speed and saying only a small proportion of users will get this speed (with the rest not being aware of what the average is), or advertising a lower speed, with those who can get the highest speeds not being aware of the full potential of the product.
A more sensible approach would perhaps be to allow broadband providers to state what the maximum speed of the service is but require them to provide an average speed range that users typically get on this product, for example: "Maximum speed 40Mbps, 2/3rds of users receive 20-28Mbps". This would then give consumers an indication of the maximum achievable, but also an idea of what they are likely to get.