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ISPA to members: play fair on fair use

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Internet providers' trade association ISPA has told its members to stop advertising "unlimited" broadband unless they are explicit and transparent about their fair use policies.

Over recent months public calls have grown louder for action against ISPs who hawk "unlimited" services, without monthly download limits or bandwidth throttling, only to threaten cut-off when unpublished limits are breached.

The policy has drawn criticism from within the industry too, with BT's Plusnet, and Virgin Media calling for more transparency.

In a statement, ISPA said: "ISPA advises its members to be transparent and to explain the consequences of breaking their bandwidth caps or fair usage policies prior to a customer signing an agreement."

"ISPA recommends members to incorporate any bandwidth caps, allowances or acceptable and fair use policies in their general sales and marketing literature, and on their websites. Information should also be given to the customer at the point of registration for a service."

Action against ISPs has not been taken by Ofcom or the Advertising Standards Authority, which says "unlimited" advertising is OK as long as the small print says there is a fair use policy. The details of the fair use policy do not have to be published, however, as Pipex customers recently dicovered when they were told they would be cut off if they didn't rein in their broadband use.

Ofcom's primary criterion for initiating an investigation is evidence of consumer harm, so if you've gone without broadband because of an opaque fair use policy, you can find details of how to contact the regulator here, and there's a Downing Street petition here. ®

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