Virgin Media asks ASA to crack down on false broadband speed claims

The ad watchdog’s current rules allow companies to advertise a headline broadband speed even if it is available to only 10% of customers

The Virgin Media chief executive has called on the UK advertising watchdog to crack down on broadband speed ad claims made by rivals.

Tom Mockridge has called on the Advertising Standards Authority to extend its newly announced crackdown on confusing broadband pricing ads to include putting claims about speed under scrutiny.

“To properly compare different broadband offers, consumers need to assess the whole deal: price and speed,” said Mockridge, in a blogpost.

The company, which is able to offer superfast broadband through its cable network, says the ASA relies on “outdated” rules for assessing broadband speed claims.

“The ASA needs to overhaul the outdated rules on broadband speed advertising,” said Mockridge. “Dating back to 2011, the ASA rules allow companies advertise a headline broadband speed if it is available to only 10% of customers.”

Mockridge says that while there are occasionally technical reasons why consumers can sometimes not achieve top broadband speed, research from consumer watchdog Which? shows that only a small percentage of customers who get broadband from rivals hit the speeds promised in advertising.

“If the ASA is serious it should ensure consumers can compare broadband deals on the things that really matter, and this includes speed,” he said.

The ASA said that in the past speed claims in ads had been a concern and that the advertising code had been beefed up to address the issue.

“We acted [and] there was an improvement in the clarity of speed claims in ads and complaints to the ASA have fallen by half,” said ASA chief executive Guy Parker. “The market has moved on and relatively few broadband ads now mention specific speeds. But we remain open to considering and responding to good evidence that those claims are misleading people.”

Contributor

Mark Sweney

The GuardianTramp

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