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ASA tuts at TalkTalk over broadband speed estimator

Tool can stay, but ISP must add warning about potential inaccuracy

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TalkTalk got rapped on the knuckles by the Advertising Standards Authority today after it upheld a complaint that its broadband speed checker was rather overestimating the actual speed of web surfing.

A customer had complained that when he typed his postcode into the box, he was told his estimated speed was 3.8Mbps with a range of between 2.1 and 5.3Mbps, but his actual speed ended up being less than 2.1.

However, the internet provider has not been asked to remove the checker, but rather has been asked to make it more clear that the speed estimate can be affected by all sorts of things – such as distance from the exchange.

"We told TalkTalk to ensure their speed checker results were more clearly qualified in future," the ASA said in its judgment. "We also told them to ensure they were in a position to provide evidence to substantiate the impression that was likely to be taken from their future advertising claims."

TalkTalk had argued that it was clear the estimated speed was a total guess because consumers' attention was drawn to a link on "How we estimate your speed?" that told them all the factors that could affect the actual speed they were estimated as having. The ISP also said the results in the speed checker were based on methodology set out in the Code of Practice.

The ASA however, couldn't help but notice that the link was not prominent enough to make it obvious that speeds would vary a lot and most of the time the speeds were turning out to be lower than the estimate.

TalkTalk now has to place information stating that the speeds are simply an educated guess front and centre, but the company is not going to be changing how it calculates the estimates it hands out.

"We are grateful for the guidance provided by the Advertising Standards Authority. The prominence of the speed checker on our website demonstrates our commitment to being completely transparent with our customers about the speeds they can achieve," a TalkTalk spokesperson said in an emailed statement. ®

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