ASA limits ads – up to a point!

At last the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has taken action to put an end to two aspects of so called self-regulation for Internet Service Providers.

From 1st April 2012 the ASA will be clamping down on the way UK ISPs use the terms ‘up to’ and ‘unlimited’ in promotional materials. The changes don’t just relate to consumer broadband products, but also business-to-business broadband, which makes the issue critical for the broadband providers to get to grips with; excluding of course, Deep Blue who always confirm the expected up to and download speeds on a new service.

ASA consider that any ‘up to’ maximum speed descriptions should be based on the actual experience of users and therefore anyone offering broadband should be able to demonstrate that the speeds they claim can be achieved by a reasonable proportion (at least 10%) of customers. Use of the term ‘unlimited’ meanwhile, has been a contentious issue for several years. If the customer incurs any extra charge or traffic management as a consequence of exceeding usage thresholds, then the term ‘unlimited’ cannot be used.

Personally we feel this action was long overdue but even now consider the new ‘up to’ rules to be particularly weak. An up to 20Mg service where only 10% of users actually get anywhere close to the speed is pretty pathetic many would say. It means 90% do not.

The use of ‘unlimited’ however seems to have far less wriggle room and is welcome. Unlimited should mean just that. If you can’t deliver unlimited for a set price then say so up front and stop ducking and diving.

Look out for subtle changes for future Ads on the box as these new rules come into effect next month.