The UK advertising regulator is introducing new rules to crack down on misleading speed claims by broadband providers.

The latest guidance from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) require all residential broadband providers to base numerical speed claims in advertisements on the download speed available to a minimum of 50 percent of customers at peak time.

The rules, set to be introduced on 23 May 2018, stipulate that these speeds should be described as “average”.

The ASA also said speed-checking facilities should be promoted in adverts wherever possible.

Currently broadband providers can claim customers will receive “up to” a speed that is available to at least 10 percent of customers.

However, research commissioned by the ASA found that current speed claims were often misleading.

The regulator received responses from internet providers, consumer groups and Ofcom, before deciding that a median peak-time download speed would be the most useful measure to customers.

The news came as a separate review from the ASA found that the current practice of using the label “fibre” to describe broadband services that use fibre for only part of the connection, such as FTTC, was not “materially misleading” to consumers.

While the ASA cannot enforce or impose legislation, it can refer adverts that break its rules to other regulators.

Shahriar Coupal, Director of the Committees of Advertising Practice, said: “There are a lot of factors that affect the broadband speed a customer is going to get in their own home - from technology to geography, to how a household uses broadband.

“While we know these factors mean some people will get significantly slower speeds than others, when it comes to broadband ads, our new standards will give consumers a better understanding of the broadband speeds offered by different providers when deciding to switch providers.

“We continually review our standards to make sure they reflect consumers’ experiences, the technology available and the evidence base to make sure our standards are in the right place.

“Following extensive research and consultation, we hope our new standards will improve customer confidence in future ads.”  

In October, the ASA introduced rules requiring broadband providers to include line rental in pricing for broadband packages, with ISPs such as BT and TalkTalk responding by abolishing line rental charges.

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