Tough new broadband advertising rules for UK ISPs

29 Sep 2011

The body responsible for writing advertising rules in the UK, the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP), has ruled that ISPs can no longer use the use the term ‘unlimited’ if there is, in fact, a limit on the service.

It has ruled that broadband providers may still manage traffic on their services, but if it affects users unduly, that, too, will likely render an “unlimited” claim misleading. 

The guidance also states that maximum speed claims for broadband should be based on the actual experience of users.

In future, marketers should be able to demonstrate that the speeds claimed in their advertising can be achieved by a reasonable proportion of consumers.

It said the term ‘unlimited’ can only apply “if the user incurs no additional charge or suspension of service as a consequence of exceeding a usage threshold associated with a ‘fair usage policy’ (FUP), a traffic management policy or similar; and (if) limitations that do affect the speed or usage of the service are moderate only and are clearly explained in the advertisement.”

New rules also affect speed claims

CAP has also ruled that if a maximum speed claim is made, advertisers should be able to demonstrate that the speed is achievable for at least 10pc of customers.

“Advertisers should also include in the ad appropriate, additional information to accompany a maximum speed claim to ensure the average consumer is not misled. Where relevant, this includes information that bears out that a significant proportion of subscribers receive a speed that falls considerably short of what consumers might reasonably expect the service to offer.”

The new rules come into effect on 1 April 2012.

The chairman of CAP James Best said: “This new guidance directly responds to consumer concerns by setting an appropriately high bar for advertisers who want to make speed and ‘unlimited’ claims in ads.

“Advertising is only effective if consumers trust the messages they see and hear. This guidance will help deliver that,” Best said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years