Written Question: Misleading Advertisements for Fibre Broadband

Questions:
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, pursuant to the oral contribution of the Minister of State for Digital and the Creative Industries of Thursday 15 November 2018, Official Report column 545, whether he plans to include proposals to tackle the misleading advertising of fibre broadband in his forthcoming Statement of Strategic Priorities to Ofcom. (213439)

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, pursuant to the oral contribution of the Minister of State for Digital and the Creative Industries of 15 November 2018, Official Report column 545, what steps he is taking to tackle the misleading advertising of fibre broadband. (213438)

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, pursuant to the oral contribution of the Minister of State for Digital and the Creative Industries of 15 November 2018, Official Report column 545, whether it is his policy that the use of the term fibre in the advertising of part-copper broadband represents misleading advertising. (213437)

Tabled on: 28 January 2019

Answer - Margot James:

The 2017 Digital Strategy set out that Government would work with regulators and industry to ensure that the advertising of broadband reflects the speeds that consumers can expect to receive and accurately describes the technology used.

Since the Digital Strategy was published, the ASA has implemented new guidance, which states that speed claims should be based on the download speeds available to at least 50% of customers at peak time, and no longer on 'up to' speeds available to at least 10% of customers. Ofcom has also updated its Code of Practice on Broadband Speeds.

The ASA also reviewed the use of the term ‘fibre’ to describe part-fibre and full-fibre broadband and concluded in November 2017 that the term 'fibre' is unlikely to mislead consumers as currently used in the advertising of part-fibre broadband services. In June 2018, the Administrative Court granted CityFibre permission to proceed with its Judicial Review (JR) of the ASA's decision. The next stage is for the Administrative Court to make a substantive decision on the JR.

The Government remains committed to working with regulators and industry to ensure that consumers receive clear, concise and accurate information in order to make informed choices about their broadband, particularly as the rollout of new technologies like full fibre broadband increases. As part of this, we will monitor developments in other countries, including Italy’s current trial of a traffic light system for broadband advertising.

The Government will be consulting on its Statement of Strategic Priorities for telecommunications, spectrum and post shortly.