Broadband providers will have to use real speeds and restrict ‘unlimited’ download or phone call claims from April 1.
Broadband speeds will have to be based on the actual experience of an ISP’s customers and available to a lot of customers.
Unlimited downloads will have to be truly unlimited, with only moderate traffic management and no extra charges or suspension for excessive downloaders, while phone providers will have to show that calls are really unlimited.
The new rules from the Committee of Advertising Practice were announced in September but come into action from April 1.
The CAP said: “Advertised maximum speeds should be based on the actual experience of an ISP’s customers. Advertisers should be able to demonstrate that the speeds claimed in their advertising can be achieved by a reasonable proportion of consumers.
“As for ‘unlimited’ claims, these are likely to mislead if telecommunications providers charge their customers or suspend their services for excessive usage, or impose immoderate traffic management, contrary to customers’ expectations of an ‘unlimited’ service.”
The CAP and its broadcasting sibling, BCAP, reviewed broadband advertising claims following a request by the Advertising Standards Authority in 2011. The ASA was concerned about whether consumers could actually achieve advertised speeds and “unlimited” usage of telecommunications services.
Broadband speed rules
Claimed top speeds should be available to at least 10 per cent of a provider’s customers, and they can be rounded down to more convenient figure – for example, from 10.6Mbps to 10Mbps – but not up.
Broadband ads will also have to warn readers of anything that could seriously affect their top speed, such as distance from the local exchange, congestion and traffic management.
Adverts will also have to warn if different types of traffic – such as video streaming or peer-to-peer downloads – will get different speeds to general browsing and email.
Broadband providers will also have to show where they get their speed data, whether it’s from in-house research or independent tests such as Ofcom’s annual broadband reports.
‘Unlimited’ means unlimited
Unlimited broadband services will not be able to charge users for exceeding a set limit, or suspend or significantly restrict their ability to download.
However, download restrictions can still apply to illegal downloads of copyrighted content, or using a consumer account to run a business.
Providers will be able to impose ‘moderate’ traffic management or download limitations if they’re explained in marketing communications.
A moderate traffic management policy should have no more effect than the general slow-down of internet speeds at peak times such as evening and weekends.
You can check your current line speed with our broadband speed test tool.