BBC Watchdog on advertised broadband speeds

As one of the leading broadband comparison sites in the UK, broadbandchoices regularly produces practical guides and advice about how to improve broadband and deal with providers. After watching Watchdog's show and in particular the poll related to broadband "up-to" speeds in broadband advertisements, we'd like to make available some of our thoughts and guides.

We have been saying for years that customers are bombarded with broadband advertisements which are inadequate and misleading. Broadband has now become the fourth household utility, so a good broadband is essential for people's lives. Consumers deserve honesty about the service they will receive, but current advertising does not make this clear. We believe that consumers will be better served once Ofcom takes a more proactive approach.

The current broadband market is highly confusing; customers do not know exactly what speed they will get until late in the purchase journey, making it very difficult to compare packages. "Up To" and "average for postcode" speeds do not answer the question, in most cases the actual speed is significantly lower than that which is advertised. Ofcom needs to support consumers by obliging providers to supply price comparison websites with estimated minimum, average and maximum speeds. 77% of customers we surveyed want to see providers make address level data available via price comparison sites.'

Michael Phillips,CEO.

We've been actively lobbying local government organisations and OfCom to mandate address level availability data, allowing consumers to get a more accurate prediction of expected speeds to their home. Please see the full statement here:

Our efforts:

In 2015 we analysed data from OfCom (2015) and Consumer Futures (2013) to show that whilst savings from switching broadband provider were broadly in line with energy and insurance (£100 - £300 on average), consumers were less likely to switch - a behaviour we attribute in part to a lack of clear and reliable data around actual speed to their homes.

It is our hope that through our efforts we can move the broadband price comparison space to a more clear landscape, something which is proactively happening in other verticals;

  • Energy- consumers have no doubts over the supply of energy to their home and purchasing considerations are based on pricing - where price comparison websites have widely accepted, accurate formulas for calculating bill size and potential savings.
  • Insurance- key data is widely shared between insurance providers and price comparison websites ensuring the correct level of cover and premium is clearly communicated on the PCW and, crucially, that it matches that on the provider's website.
  • Broadband / mobile- pricing is set and consistent on the price comparison websites and providers' sites but the speed and service reliability (vital information when making a comparison) are unknown to the consumer during their research.

Our research:

A survey we conducted highlighted two key observations:

  • Clarity of data is vital for consumers' confidence prior to switching - we have surveyed our website visitors and they support this view.
  • Over 77% of consumers, insist that better availability and accuracy of broadband speeds to their address level is important for improving the switching process.

In addition, we hosted a roundtable meeting with all key price comparison websites on this issue, during which all agreed that accurate speed information is crucial to improve customer understanding, confidence and purchase in the industry.

Suggested solutions:

Recent changes to broadband pricing made by the ASA is a big step forward, however we believe this needs to follow and think the below points are key to resolving this issue:

  • OfCom need to proactively require providers to make speed data available to price comparison websites.
  • A central body needs to be made available to collect, organise and make data available.
  • Whilst a step in the right direction, annual surveys and industry reports are not the best place for consumer facing information, this must be distributed at point of purchase destinations.

Supporting information:

We have a host of useful guides and expert advice available to consumers, including a comprehensive e-book on how to boost your internet and a guide which receives over 6,000 visits a month.

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  • New ASA ruling makes broadband pricing more transparent

  • Cost clarity on broadband deals

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