ASA News on unlimited broadband – expert comment from Thinkbroadband.com
Expert comment from Andrew Ferguson, co-founder Thinkbroadband.com (www.thinkbroadband.com) following the ASA new guidance notes for claims of unlimited broadband.
“The new guidance notes for claims of “unlimited” and broadband speed in advertising are to be welcomed, certainly some of the worst practices may be curtailed, and a more realistic picture be given to consumers. Though the benefit is limited, as consumers should already be given a personalised speed estimate when signing up to broadband, i.e. specific to their telephone line/address.”
The key points are:
1. “Unlimited” can only be used for a service where the user is not charged extra for going over some figure, and there is no suspension of service for heavy use.
2. Traffic management to slow down some types of activity are still allowed, but where these slow a service down, more than the expected off-peak to peak slow down, it should be detailed in the advertising.
3. If a provider claims “unlimited web browsing” this includes all browser based activity, e.g. video streaming, so if that has its own limit this must be clearly detailed in the advert.
4. If a maximum speed for a service is claimed, it must be achievable for at least 10% of customers on the service. e.g. what used to be advertised as an up to 8 Mbps service, would now be an up to 7 Mbps service.
5. Broadband providers are expected to be able to prove speed claims, through their own or independent analysis, and reflect the geographic area they are advertising in., with regular reviews to reflect their current user base.
6. Speed claims in adverts refer to measured throughput speeds, unlike the case where connection speeds alone are generally advertised.
7. Mobile broadband services while not covered by the guidelines are expected to attempt to follow the spirit of the guidelines.
The extra degree of explanation required in the body copy for non-broadcast marketing may be a challenge in terms of avoiding wordy explanations that no-one reads or understands, and one concern is that this will lead to a de-emphasis on speed and much more lifestyle based advertising. Additionally smaller providers may be discouraged from advertising in local press/radio due to the new requirements to prove any speed claims, something the largest providers with greater resources will have no problem doing.
The most positive aspect may be that people will realise that ADSL2+ only leads to a doubling in speeds for a small fraction of customers, and thus encourage people to look at the superfast services available, such as Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) and other products like cable broadband, thus increasing take-up and in time leading to further investment in roll-out.”