Internet giants are to be blocked from misleading millions of customers with bogus claims about how fast their broadband is.
At the moment, companies such as BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin advertise their broadband based on so-called ‘up to’ speeds.
However, few customers realise that the claims are allowed even if just 10 per cent of households can achieve those speeds.
The new rules, announced by the Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP), mean the firms will have to limit their claims to the average speed available to at least 50 per cent of customers at peak times.
Companies such as BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin advertise their broadband based on so-called ‘up to’ speeds but few realise the claims are allowed even if just 10 per cent of households can achieve those speeds
The current state of Britain’s broadband service has come under fire from families, businesses and consumer groups. Many feel misled over the claims about speeds, breakdowns in service and rocketing costs.
Some homes are paying more than £1,500 a year for packages which include pay TV, yet our broadband system is second rate compared to nations including Slovakia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Romania.
This is largely because most UK services are carried along ancient copper telephone wires rather than hi-tech fibre optic cables. So, the further people are from telephone exchanges, the slower their service is.
CAP director Shahriar Coupal said: ‘When it comes to broadband ads our new standards will give consumers a better understanding of the speeds offered by different providers when deciding to switch providers.’
The rules will come into force in May next year and will apply to residential broadband adverts.
The Government’s digital minister, Matt Hancock, said: ‘Headline “up to” speeds that only need to be available to 10 per cent of consumers are incredibly misleading – customers need clear, concise and accurate information in order to make an informed choice.
Many feel misled over the claims about speeds, breakdowns in service and rocketing costs
‘We have been fighting for this for some time now, and it’s a great victory for consumers.’
Managing director of home products and services at consumer group Which?, Alex Neill, added: ‘Millions of households are currently experiencing broadband speeds that just don’t live up to their expectations and unrealistic adverts showing speeds you’re never likely to get don’t help.
‘It is good to see people may finally see the speeds they could achieve before they sign up to a deal.’
The telecoms regulator, Ofcom, which recently outlined a new compensation scheme for customers whose broadband service fails, welcomed the announcement.
Its consumer group director, Lindsey Fussell, said: ‘We’ve been backing this change, which will help close the gap between what broadband shoppers expect, and what they receive.’ Under Ofcom’s arrangements, compensation will be £8 per day for loss of service and £25 if a firm misses an appointment to carry out a repair.
And £5 per day will be paid if a firm fails to start a new service when promised. The fines will come into effect at the start of 2019.
Our broadband system is second rate compared to nations including Slovakia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Romania
The crackdown comes after a Which? study found last week that broadband speeds in three in four homes are slower than those claimed by internet providers.
Families in 284 out of 390 local authority areas are typically getting slower speeds than stated.
Firms provide official estimates of their median broadband speed to Ofcom. Which? compared the latest figures to the median speeds that households are actually getting, based on 712,000 home tests. The median is the mid-point speed seen from all the tests in a local area.
The biggest gap was in Ashfield in Nottinghamshire where tests found the median download speed was 62 per cent slower than the figure claimed by broadband firms.
The actual figure was 15.1 megabits per second (Mbit/s) versus the official claim of 40 Mbit/s.
The figure in Surrey Heath was 58 per cent below expectations and in Havant, Hampshire, it was 57 per cent slower. Cambridge, Gloucester and St Albans in Hertfordshire were all 56 per cent lower than stated.