What the new ASA standards mean for comms resellers

From 1st April 2012, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will be clamping down on the way UK ISPs use the terms ‘up to’ and ‘unlimited’ in promotional materials. The changes don’t just relate to consumer broadband products, but also business-to-business broadband, which makes the issue critical for the reseller community to get to grips with.

ASA consider that any ‘up to’ maximum speed descriptions should be based on the actual experience of users and therefore anyone offering broadband should be able to demonstrate that the speeds they claim can be achieved by a reasonable proportion (at least 10%) of customers. Use of the term ‘unlimited’ meanwhile, has been a contentious issue for several years. If the customer incurs any extra charge or traffic management as a consequence of exceeding usage thresholds, then the term ‘unlimited’ cannot be used.

Pete Tomlinson, Head of Sales & Marketing at Eclipse Internet, comments, “These new advertising standards should be welcomed, as they encourage transparency in the broadband market and level the playing field for the best products to be easier to identify. Buyers are turned off by small print; they want to compare apples with apples, not asterisks with asterisks. The impact on us as an ISP will be minimal; we are already regularly named as one of the fastest nationwide broadband providers, and have a great reputation for service and support.

The issue the channel will face is dealing with just how familiar and accepting their customers have become with terms like ‘up to’ and ‘unlimited’. Many customers will continue using this language to understand the value of the product, so resellers need to be confident in what they are selling and how to communicate benefits in terms other than just speed. If they haven’t had the lowdown already, resellers should seek guidance from their ISP partner so that they are in tune with the right message to the market.”