Advertising Standards Authority research confirms need to review standards for advertising speed claims

Advertising Standards Authority research confirms need to review standards for advertising speed claims

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) published yesterday research into consumers’ understanding of broadband speed claims made in adverts. The study was commissioned following growing concerns that consumers were misled by adverts for broadband services citing headline speeds that customers did not actually receive. The research conducted by consultancy GfK found that connection speeds were still the predominant factor for the majority of consumers when choosing a service and that a majority expected to receive the maximum speed advertised.

The aim of the research was to find out whether existing regulatory standards set by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) were effective in protecting consumers from misleading claims (the standards allow headline speeds achievable by 10% of consumers to be advertised with the preceding words “up to”). The study assessed consumers’ understanding of “up to” speed claims as well as alternative speed claims including average speed claims, range speed claims, and minimum speed claims.

The research found that:

  • Speed is an important factor for a significant proportion of consumers who are making decisions between providers
  • Levels of knowledge and understanding of broadband speeds vary, but it is low overall with many not knowing what speed they need to carry out daily online tasks
  • Most understand that the higher the number in the ad, the higher the speed of the service, but many are unclear on what this means for them and what speed they would likely achieve
  • Despite that uncertainty, most consumers believe they are likely to receive a speed at or close to the headline speed claim when, for many, that is not likely to be the case

The report also found that the interpretation of interpretation of ‘up to’ speed claims is strongly influenced by levels of knowledge and awareness of broadband speeds, which is overall low amongst consumers. It also found that there was a negative reaction to the explanation of the ‘up to’ speed claim, which is not considered to be transparent and not useful in helping people determine what speed they might expect to achieve.

The ASA is planning on reviewing its Guidance to advertisers on broadband speed claims. A report will be published in Spring 2017.

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