UK: Broadband Advertising: UK Advertising Update

Last Updated: 29 November 2011
Article by Richard Graham and Ben Hitchens


We reported in July 2011 that Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the United Kingdom communications industries, announced that the disparity between actual and advertised broadband speeds had increased, identifying the fact that actual speeds were, on average, 8.2Mbit/s slower than what had been advertised. Please click here for a copy of this Client Advisory.

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP), the committees responsible for writing and maintaining the advertising codes, have now released two Help Notes on the 'Use of speed claims in broadband advertising' and the 'Use of 'unlimited' claims in telecommunications advertising'. The Help Notes are not binding, but instead are intended to help the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) interpret the advertising codes of practice for both broadcast and non-broadcast media. The ASA is the United Kingdom's independent regulator of advertising across all media, which from 1 March 2001 has included marketing on websites.

The media scrutiny around broadband advertising continues to be a hot topic in the United Kingdom. This stems from the concern that misleading advertising has fallen foul of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008.

Use of Speed Claims in Broadband Advertising

(i) Speed Claims

The first Help Note states that where providers make a numerical speed claim that is likely to be understood by consumers as the maximum speed attainable by their service, the provider should be able to demonstrate that the speed is achievable for at least 10% of the relevant customer base. This guidance is stated to apply regardless of whether the speed claim is made in an advertising communication or as part of the name of the service.

(ii) Qualifying Speed Claims

In a move that will not entirely satisfy Ofcom, which was concerned that the term was misleading, the Help Note has confirmed that where some customers' maximum speeds fall below the advertised maximum, that figure must be prefixed with the words 'up to'. However, where factors such as traffic management are likely to significantly lower the claimed maximum speed for some customers, information on such factors should be clearly set out in the marketing material. Any qualifying wording must be expressed clearly and prominently, and must avoid technical language that may not easily be understood by consumers.

Moreover, where a factor is so serious, such as to cause a significant proportion of an ISP's customers to receive a maximum speed that is so much lower than the advertised maximum that it prevents those customers from conducting online activity in accordance with their reasonable expectations, further qualifying information must be included. This information should notify consumers of the likelihood of the service not being able to meet their expectations.

(iii) Other Claims

The use of terms such as 'superfast' to describe a broadband service will also be covered by the Help Note. In these circumstances, the advertiser must include qualifying wording if the conditions above are satisfied.

It is also interesting to note that the guidance applies to upload speeds as well as download speeds. The growing trend for internet users to store content online and the consequent development of cloud computing services such as 'iCloud', has meant that uploading has assumed a position of increased importance. Accordingly, consumers are likely to apportion greater attention to upload speeds advertised by ISPs, meaning that these may soon come to be advertised as widely as download speeds. The Help Note's inclusion of such rates is therefore welcome.

Use of 'unlimited' Claims in Telecommunications Advertising

The second Help Note states that marketing communications must not mislead the average customer about the benefits or results that might be expected from an 'unlimited' telecommunications product or service. However, it still provides scope for providers to implement traffic management polices where certain thresholds are met.

The advertising of 'unlimited' telecommunications products or services will tend to be permitted where the (i) user does not incur an additional charge or suspension of service as a consequence of exceeding any fair usage threshold and (ii) any limitations that impact the speed or usage of the service are only moderate and are explained in the relevant advertising material. It is important to note that a key exception set out in the Help Note is that providers will still be able to subject 'unlimited' products and services to subscriber-based and application-based traffic management policies, network-wide traffic management policies, and traffic management mechanisms that are under the auspices of a fair use policy.


CAP and BCAP's guidance is scheduled to come into effect on 1 April 2012. It is intended that the greater clarity afforded by the Help Notes in relation to the advertising of broadband products and services will protect consumers from purchasing broadband products that fail to deliver a service that is compliant with their reasonable expectations. Ultimately, therefore, the effective enforcement of this guidance by the ASA may help to promote the delivery of more consistent broadband services generally. However, the Help Notes will not eradicate all complaints regarding broadband advertising. In particular, the threshold for speed claims is relatively low (i.e. 10%), the guidance does not seek to prevent the use of 'up to' wording and 'unlimited' products and services are still subject to a provider's traffic management policies.

It is hoped that the increased regulatory focus on broadband advertising will eradicate some of the misleading advertising that the United Kingdom market has recently seen. It will be interesting to see how ISPs and the ASA behave in this fiercely competitive market.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.