Who: Advertising Standards Agency (“ASA“) and Committee on Advertising Practice (“CAP“)
When: 31 March 2017
Earlier this year, we reported that the ASA, following a joint research project carried out with Ofcom, was clamping down on misleading broadband advertising claims, with a high priority focus on advertised broadband speeds.
Following this, the ASA has now announced that it is launching an investigation into the use of the term “fibre” in relation to part-fibre broadband services and full-fibre broadband services and whether use of the term in this way has the potential to mislead consumers. To date, the ASA has permitted advertisement references to “fibre broadband” for hybrid cables where small parts are not fibre. However, this investigation could well lead to a change in that approach.
Background to investigation
In November 2016, the ASA reviewed broadband advertising claims, concluding that consumers often lack understanding in relation to broadband speed claims in advertising.
Generally, full-fibre broadband has the potential to offer higher speeds than other broadband services. However, the ASA is now scrutinising the way in which terms such as “fibre broadband” and “fibre optic” are used to refer to only part-fibre broadband services, often supplied via a hybrid of copper (or aluminium) and optical fibre cables, which are more susceptible to interference.
Alongside this, CAP is already investigating ways that broadband speed claims are advertised. The decision is timely as the ASA’s announcement follows the publication of the Government’s Digital Strategy which raised concerns about inaccurate broadband advertising and recommended that “fibre” is only used to describe full-fibre broadband services.
Why this matters:
Advertisers are already subject to strict requirements to provide particular information to consumers regarding the broadband service they offer. Currently, broadband service providers are permitted to use “up to” claims to advertise their maximum speed if that speed is achievable by just 10% or more of their customers. That rule is under scrutiny as part of the current CAP review. However, if the use of “fibre” is limited to applying only to full-fibre cables then that could go some way to addressing the concerns raised in that review. Perhaps it would be prudent for CAP to wait for the outcome on the “fibre” point before going live with its new pricing guidance? The ASA says it expects to provide an update “by the summer”.