We're announcing today [Friday 27 May] that we'll be conducting research into consumers’ understanding of broadband speed claims made in ads. The research will be conducted alongside the Committees for Advertising Practice (CAP), which are the bodies responsible for writing and maintaining the Advertising Codes.

Claims about broadband speeds in advertising have been subject to guidance launched by CAP following a public consultation in 2011. A key requirement is that the headline speed must be achievable by at least 10% of customers. The guidance also requires that all speed claims are preceded with an “up to” qualifier and, for those relating to ADSL2+ services, the ad must also include a prominent disclaimer making clear that speeds vary significantly dependent on the user’s distance from the exchange.

The aim of the guidance was to remind consumers that speeds can vary according to a number of factors, including rurality and the quality of local connections, and to manage expectations about the speed they are likely to receive.

Since the introduction of the guidance, complaints to us about broadband speed advertising have fallen by 60%, with evidence pointing towards providers instead choosing to compete on other factors such as price, reliability and customer service.

We and CAP are aware of recent concerns that, despite the guidance, consumers might be misled by claims about speed in broadband ads. Consequently, we're launching a research project to test consumers’ understanding and expectations arising from such advertised claims.

The findings, which will be published in the early autumn, will help CAP determine whether there needs to be any change to the current guidance.

ASA Chief Executive Guy Parker said:

“As an evidence-based regulator, we want to make sure our approach is underpinned by the experience of real people. While complaints to the ASA about broadband speed claims have reduced considerably over recent years, we’re taking action to respond to the concerns by testing our approach through consumer research”.

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