Updates to this story
Virgin Media is stepping up the broadband battle in the UK by taking a pop at misleading advertising, quite clearly a shot at BT with its string of crap adverts with the bloke from My Family.
In a survey of 1000 people, nine out of ten said they found broadband advertising misleading.
Virgin said that with many ISPs are advertising speeds of “up to” 20Mb or 24Mb but they are delivering an average speed of just 5Mb. It's like being told by your boss you'll be paid "up to" a tenner per hour then getting a cheque in the post for tuppence. There are high levels of frustration among punters with 67 percent of those asked harping on about ISPs who routinely fail to deliver on their promises.
A measly two percent of those questioned said they found the current advertising approach useful. 90 percent said they find it difficult to compare different services because they can’t be sure of the speed they’ll actually get.
A huge 93 percent of respondents agreed that advertising rules should be changed to prevent ISPs making speed claims unless it mirrors the typical experience of a clear majority of customers
This is something Ofcom has been gunning for, saying that ISPs need to be more transparent with what speeds customers actually get.
In July the watchdog released figures which showed ISPs such as BT, Sky, TalkTalk and O2 were advertising broadband speeds of 'up to' 20 or even 24 MB per second, however, almost two-thirds of people who pay for these services are left frustrated with the average user only receiving 8MB or less.
Only one in 50 customers received 14MB or higher.
To combat this problem the watchdog has said that it will introduce a new voluntary code across the industry. This will give customers the right to say goodbye to their ISP if it is being particularly rubbish.
Although this won't be put in place until next year, Virgin has been playing teacher's pet and thrown its weight behind a move away from advertising "up to" speeds. It proposes that ISPs advertise "typical" or "average" speeds qualified by independent experts. It said it will define the typical speed as the average speed received by 66 percent of customers over 24 hours.
It will publish the typical average speeds its customers receive each month across its 10Mb, 20Mb and 50Mb services.
Jon James, executive director of broadband, at Virgin Media said: “People are paying for faster and faster broadband but being ripped off by unscrupulous providers who can’t deliver their promised speeds to even a single customer.
"A change in advertising is urgently needed to build consumer confidence in super-fast broadband and the industry more generally. In the meantime, I hope other ISPs will quickly follow Virgin Media’s lead by disclosing their own monthly performance data so people can make an informed decision about how to spend their money.”
Here's a screenshot from Virgin Media's homepage:
A broadband comparison site has piggybacked the story and welcomed Virgin's move. Michael Phillips at Broadbandchoices.co.uk said:"We're very encouraged that Virgin Media has taken the lead in better managing consumer expectations by pledging to publish its typical broadband speeds each month. We hope that other broadband companies will followsuit.
"Broadbandchoices.co.uk has been pushing for 'typical speeds' to be made the gold standard since 2007 – in the same way that banks use typical APR percentages. This has been prompted by our own research that plainly revealed that public satisfaction with broadband speed has been decreasing year-on-year.
"To date, consumers have effectively been misled by service providers' claims of what speeds are technically feasible compared to what they receive in the real world. Nevertheless, we still want Ofcom to implement a much clearer – and more prescriptive – marketing message policy for all broadband providers."