Advertised broadband speeds criticised by Which?

August 3, 2015

The consumer group Which? has criticised the broadband speeds advertised by ISPs, and has called on Ofcom and Trading Standards to investigate because the actual performance received often falls considerably below this.

Which? members subscribing to an ‘up to’ 8Mbps broadband product found that they were achieving an average of 2.7Mbps, with the lowest speed being just 0.09Mbps. More than one third of Which? members subscribed to an 8Mbps service and over 300 of these reported low performance.

Ruling by the Advertising Standards Agency states that using the words ‘up to’ is acceptable if most people can get close to those speeds.

Which? published these test results with its twice-yearly ISP satisfaction survey, which shows that just 30% of Which? members on average are very satisfied with their service. Smaller providers Global, Waitrose and Zen come out top. AOL, BT and Virgin Media rated below average.

It is the opinion of Which? that internet service providers should not advertise ever-increasing speeds that seem to bear little resemblance to what most people can achieve in reality. If it’s unlikely the advertised speed can be reached, it should be made clear up front to avoid confusion and misrepresentation.

Which? advises consumers to conduct their own research to check what speed is likely to be received before upgrading. If they think what they are getting differs from what has been paid for, they should speak to their provider. Which? has discovered that just 10% of its members actually expected to receive the headline speed, suggesting that people are broadly aware of the reality of the situation.

It appears to be common knowledge that the expected speed will always be lower, often considerably, than the stated headline figure. It is considered that nvestigating such an issue would be difficult due to the variability of individual connections and complex differences between providers and technology.

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