Call for truth in broadband advertising

“Australia’s equivalent of the NZ Commerce Commission, the ACCC, found that a whopping 80 percent of Australian consumers struggle to compare the broadband speeds of different ISPs…”

— James Young-Drew

New Zealand’s consumer laws are almost identical to Australia’s, so an ACCC report on broadband speed claims has relevance here.

James Young-Drew is a solicitor with Wigley and Company1. He says broadband speed transparency is a big legal compliance issue in New Zealand.

There’s help to get this right. The Australian regulator has issued a set of principles for ISPs to help customers better understand what they are buying.

How to stay onside

In a PDF on his company’s website, Young-Drew writes about the six steps New Zealand ISPs should take to stay on the right side of the Fair Trading Act.

  1. Consumers should be provided with accurate information about typical busy period speeds that the average consumer on a broadband plan can expect to receive
  2. Wholesale network speeds or theoretical speeds taken from technical specifications should not be advertised without reference to typical busy period speeds
  3. Information about the performance of promoted applications should be accurate and sufficiently prominent
  4. Factors known to affect service performance should be disclosed to consumers
  5. Performance information should be presented in a manner that is easily comparable by consumers, for example by adopting standard descriptive terms that can be readily understood and recognised, and
  6. RSPs should have systems in place to diagnose and resolve broadband speed issues.

This all sounds straightforward enough. It is important for our regulator to get this right. There’s a lot of baloney in broadband advertising and some information is downright misleading.

In particular, advertisements sometimes talk of theoretical maximum speeds which no consumer is likely to see in practice.

As Young-Drew writes:

“…broadband speeds should be marketed in a manner which is accurate, easily comparable, and descriptive of speeds that consumers can actually expect to receive in a typical busy period.


  1. Wigley and Company is a specialist IT and telecommunications law firm. It acts for some well-known local tech companies. ↩︎

 

One thought on “Call for truth in broadband advertising

  1. I like these guidelines, as theoretical speeds are often double the practical speed you can expect. I was previously on VDSL which was advertised as 70Mbps and I would get 45Mbps on a good day and peak times would generally be more like 25Mbps.

    I think fibre’s statistics will be better for now, but as more subscribers switch over (and average usage goes up with streaming video etc) it’ll start going down during peak times.

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