Brits rail against limited 'unlimited' broadband

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Brits rail against limited 'unlimited' broadband

Inherently contradictory.

UK ISPs face a clampdown by the country's advertising regulator over the "inherent contradiction" of "unlimited" broadband plans with fair usage caps.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) this week released two consultation papers that will investigate community and industry responses to 'up to' (speed) and 'unlimited' (quota) claims in fixed and mobile service advertisements.

The key issues the ASA will attempt to resolve are whether consumers can actually achieve the speed or quotas claimed.

The ASA currently tolerates "unlimited" claims under "Fair Usage Principals" (FUP) and generally will not investigate a provider unless complaints exceed 2 percent of its customer base.

It noted that complaints over "unlimited" products had fallen because mobile providers changed tactics, but customers that continued to complain last year objected strongly to the "inherent contradiction" of the term.

Recent surveys in the UK had also shown that less than half of the population actually knew what an FUP was.

The ASA also noted confusion caused by the same provider throttling fixed broadband once users had exceeded the FUP but imposing financial penalties for mobile customers.

Concerns raised in the UK are similar to those being tackled by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The ACCC recently fined Dodo for using "selective pricing" that failed to include the $30 fixed-line fee in the advertised price, and it is now on TPG's tail for a similar advertising practices.

A prior complaint against Optus centred on the use of "unlimited" to describe a high-speed broadband for package that was throttled when customers hit a 50 GB download cap.

The ACCC had also previously taken issue with mobile providers' use of "up to" and theoretical limits with regard to mobile speed claims [pdf], causing Telstra to stop the practice.

The UK's consultation over the "up to" problem will cover both fixed line and mobile, with a recent study by its communications regulator Ofcom revealing that customers on 20 megabit per second (Mbps) ADSL2+ services were, on average, delivered just 6.5 Mbps speeds.

Mobile consumers were no better off and were on average delivered 24 per cent of the advertised speed, according to a study the ASA cited.

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