Who: The Advertising Standards Agency (the “ASA“); The Committees of Advertising Practice (“CAP“)
When: 17 May 2017
Law stated as at: 29 August 2017
The ASA has announced that it will be carrying out further investigations into the potentially misleading use of the word ‘fibre‘ in broadband advertising, building on its investigation launched earlier this year, as reported by Marketinglaw.
The term ‘fibre‘ is currently used in broadband advertisements to describe both part and full fibre broadband. Part-fibre broadband uses a mixture of copper and optical fibre cabling, sometimes with a very small part being optical fibre. The copper element prevents it from delivering the very high speeds that full-fibre broadband can and is considered less reliable as it is more susceptible to interference.
Earlier this year, the ASA began its review of ‘fibre‘ broadband ads over concerns that the use of ‘fibre‘ by hybrid, or part-fibre, broadband service providers was misleading. The ASA has reviewed submissions from various stakeholders, including providers of fibre broadband, consumer organisations and other regulators. However, concern is rising and ISPs who offer full-fibre broadband are keen for tighter regulation on the use of the term ‘fibre‘ when referring to part-fibre broadband.
On 10 July 2017, the ASA announced that it was deepening its investigation and had commissioned independent consumer research from Define Research and Insight Ltd to gather consumer insights. These consumer insights are intended to further assist the ASA in deciding whether consumers are likely to be materially misled by the description of part-fibre services as ‘fibre‘ or ‘fibre optic’ broadband.
In its Digital Strategy, the UK Government made clear its view that the use of ‘fibre‘ in advertising should be restricted to full-fibre services and announced its commitment to increase investment in full-fibre broadband, to make it more widely accessible. The ASA and its sister body CAP are already focussed on clamping down on misleading and false advertising in relation to broadband speed and price claims, and CAP is currently working on issuing new guidance to tighten advertising standards, which will focus on the basis of speed claims and their description in advertising.
Why this matters:
Broadband providers should watch this space and pay close attention to the ASA’s findings. The ASA is focussed on ensuring consumers are not misled. A clamp down on the use of ‘fibre‘ to describe hybrid broadband services would require a significant change in the way broadband services are advertised going forward. The ASA intends to publish its report before the end of 2017.