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November 17, 2016updated 18 Nov 2016 2:20pm

The need for internet speed: What new broadband ad rules could mean for UK broadband deals

What will new broadband speed advertising rules look like? Approaches using minimum, average and ranges of speeds were tested with consumers.

By Alexander Sword

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) called for changes in the way that broadband is advertised as it revealed research showing that broadband customers were being misled by broadband offers.

The qualitative research conducted by GfK found that the headline speed claims given by broadband providers are believed by consumers to be the speeds they will get, when actually standards permit claims that are achievable by only 10 percent of customers.

With many consumers making decisions between providers based on speed, the ASA has called for a change in the way speeds are advertised.

Consumers place high importance on speed; a Broadband Genie survey of 2000 broadband customers found that 79 percent said that slow connections should be discounted.

The possible intervention is part of a wider clampdown on broadband advertising, with the ASA recently implementing new rules on advertised prices. Amongst other things, the rules require internet service providers to include line rental when detailing the cost of a broadband plan, meaning that the monthly costs advertised will be all-inclusive.

broadband speedWhat form will the new rules take? CBR looks at the possible approaches studied by the ASA that could be taken by the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) when it reports in spring 2017.


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1. Clarifying the ‘up to’ claim

This approach would require the advertisements to state clearly that the advertised speeds are available to at least 10 percent of customers.

According to consumers surveyed, this would be considerably more transparent, although they still were unsure what speeds they personally would be able to achieve.

Marketers would have a difficult job on their hands as this was considered a less attractive statement.

2. Changing the ‘up to’ rule

This would raise the bar for how many customers could expect to get the headline speeds to 25 or 50 percent rather than the current 10 percent, while allowing the broadband companies to advertise as normal.

However, customers still reacted negatively to this approach, even though they accepted that it was more useful than the current 10 percent. This is because it was still unclear to a majority of customers what speeds they would actually be getting.

3. Average rather than maximum

The research tested three different approaches to including average speeds in broadband advertising.

internetThe first would simply require an average speed to be stated, the second would require this to be a customer average speed and the third would be an average speed across all households.

The average approach was preferred by many research participants to the ‘up to’ approach as it gave a better indication of what customers would actually get.
However, there was still uncertainty about how averages were calculated, including whether they used off-peak or on-peak data.

Respondents also criticised the lack of a minimum speed. With the average across households figure, they felt a local figure might be more useful, especially in rural areas.

4. Range

Another approach considered was offering a typical range of speeds that would be available to 80 percent of households.

Some consumers were more positive about this than some other options as they felt that they were likely to fall within the typical range.

However, some felt that the range was too broad and were unsure where they would fall within this range.

Some consumers overlooked the word ‘typical’, meaning that they interpreted the range as maximum and minimum speeds that they would be likely to achieve.

5. Minimum

Also tested was an approach that would simply provide a minimum speed that would be achieved by customers.

There were positive reactions to this idea, with many valuing the idea of the guarantee that the minimum speed would provide.

Some felt that a minimum was not enough information, as they made decisions based on the maximum speed.

It was also considered to be poor from a marketing perspective, with some respondents questioning whether they would pay attention to such an advert.

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