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Misleading claims continue unabated

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UK consumers continue to be misled by broadband ISPs who compare their own services to rivals.

With some 60,000 people a week signing up to speedy net services, the advertising watchdog continues to intervene in squabbles between rival providers over whose service is faster or cheaper.

The latest pronouncement by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld two complaints against cableco Telewest, which buried the details of its comparison with BT Broadband in the small print. The ASA also took issue with Telewest's use of the term "faster broadband".

Still, Telewest was cleared on its "free modem" offer although, somewhat curiously, the ASA did not agree that Telewest's comparison of its 256kbps service with BT Broadband's 512kbps service was misleading.

The issue of misleading punters is something that has concerned the Consumers' Association (CA). It told a group of MPs in November 2003 that UK consumers needed a clear definition of broadband to prevent them from being misled.

The consumer watchdog was concerned that there was "widespread confusion about the term 'broadband'" and argued that different definitions (especially over service speeds) only served to confuse consumers who found it difficult to compare different products and providers.

In their report MPs agreed that there is "disagreement about what actually constitutes broadband". ®

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