Broadband has become something that we increasingly rely on, but knowing how much we're paying for it – not to mention the speeds we're getting – isn't always easy. Indeed, the advertising itself can often be cause for confusion, so it's little wonder that 80% of consumers find the way broadband speeds are advertised misleading.
That's according to research from Cable.co.uk, which found widespread confusion over advertised speeds, and the speeds the majority of consumers actually get. For example, did you know that only 10% of consumers have to receive the maximum speed available for it to be advertised as such? This means the vast majority of those who take out a broadband package probably won't be getting anywhere near the speed they were expecting, and it's this kind of thing which is understandably frustrating many.
Of the 80% who found such advertising misleading, 58% described it as "very misleading" and 22% said it was "somewhat misleading", so it's little wonder that respondents believed that at least two-thirds of consumers should be able to receive the "up to" speed for it to be legitimately advertised.
"Broadband remains the only service you can buy without knowing what it is you're actually going to get," said Cable.co.uk's Dan Howdle. "The current system is a lucky dip where everyone pays the same no matter what mystery item they ultimately pull out. Currently, you have to find yourself in the bottom 10% speed-wise in order to exit a 12 or 18-month contract without paying substantial cancellation fees. It's a shocking state of affairs."
Happily, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) agrees – it's called for a change to the way broadband speeds are advertised to ensure consumers aren't misled, and the Committee of Advertising Practice is reviewing its guidance accordingly.
Time will tell whether changes are actually made, but in the meantime, what can you do to ensure you're getting the best deal possible? Unfortunately, if you're hoping for better speeds, there may be no way to avoid the lucky dip, but you should always make sure to read the small print when signing up to a new deal (and maybe ask your neighbours what speeds they're getting, too). There should always be a cooling-off period in which you can leave free of charge, so if you're getting a truly appalling speed, you'll be able to switch without penalty.
However, as Dan points out, "since the majority of UK broadband providers operate on the Openreach network, switching to another provider on the same network is unlikely to yield better results," which means the speed you get could simply come down to location. That unfortunately means you may have to wait until your area gets a better connection, but getting a better price is easier; it's all about comparing the options. That way, even if you're not getting the top speeds, at least you can get the best price possible.
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Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time.