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Ofcom Says UK Broadband Providers Regularly Mislead Customers With Advertised Speeds

Ofcom, the independent regulator of the U.K.’s communication industry, has issued a report in which it trounces the dishonorable advertising of British broadband providers, revealing that the majority of companies regularly mislead their customers with advertised broadband speeds much faster than they can ever actually receive.

The average broadband speed in the U.K., according to Ofcom’s report, is 6.8Mbps — which actually signifies a 10% increase in speeds over the last 6 months. However, the average speed advertised by broadband providers is over double that at 15Mbps. What’s more, over half of us Brits are subscribed to services that advertise speeds over 10Mps, yet a small minority of us actually get that kind of service.

So why are these providers allowed to advertise speeds much higher than we can actually receive in reality? Well, because of two little words: “up to.”

Never do you see an advert for broadband here in the U.K. which promises speeds of at least so many megabits per second — it’s always up to. This means providers can advertise those tantalizing 10Mbps download speeds without actually providing them to the majority of customers.

Virgin Media comes out on top of the other U.K. providers in Ofcom’s latest report, with the company quick to slam its competitors for regularly misleading their customers. Jon James, Virgin’s executive director of broadband, is calling for a change to the way in which broadband speeds are advertised:

“The gulf between what’s advertised and what speeds customers get continues to grow. Whilst Virgin Media delivers more than 90% of the speeds we advertise, ISPs promising speeds of ‘up to’ 20Mb or 24Mb are delivering an average of just 6.6Mb.

“We remain concerned that people paying for fast broadband are still being misled and believe it is absolutely essential that consumers have all the information they need to make an informed choice. We once again urge the ASA to bring about a rapid change in the way broadband services are being advertised.”

Ofcom’s chief executive agrees, and also calls for a review of the advertising practices of Internet service providers, “so that customers are able to make informed decisions based on adverts they see.”

You may remember from a story I wrote the other day about Virgin Media’s upcoming 1.5Gbps fiber optic broadband, that in the small county in which I live here in the U.K., my broadband reaches a maximum speed of around 6Mbps. I actually pay for a package of “up to” 20Mbps — well over three times the speed I actually receive. And of course I’m not the only one. Here’s a list of broadband provider’s advertised speeds versus there actual averages, taken from Ofcom’s report:

  • BT’s “up to” 20Mbps — average 7.3 – 9.1Mbps
  • Plusnet’s “up to” 20Mbps — average 6.6 – 8.4Mbps
  • Sky’s “up to” 20Mbps – 7.2 — 8.1Mbps
  • TalkTalk’s “up to” 24Mbps — 7 – 8.5Mbps
  • Virgin Media’s “up to” 20Mbps — 16.4 – 18.1Mbps
  • Orange’s “up to” 20Mbps — 6.6 – 7.6Mbps
  • O2/Be’s “up to” 24Mbps — 10 – 11.5Mbps

It seems that the only people who agree with the current advertising policy here in the U.K. are the Internet service providers themselves, with the rest of us calling out for a change.

Is your actual broadband speed anywhere near that advertised by your provider?

[via TechRadar]


Killian Bell

Killian Bell is a 20-something technology journalist based in a tiny town in England. He has an obsession with that little company in Cupertino...

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