8.1 Million Broadband Customers Do Not Know Their Limits
on: September 8, 2009, 8:06 am
unlimited broadband debacle is still rumbling on, despite Sky
setting a precedent for other providers by launching the first
completely unlimited service last year. New research from uSwitch.com
shows that over 6.7 million broadband users could still be exceeding
limits set on ‘unlimited’ packages. Despite calls
for greater clarity and transparency, just three major broadband
providers currently advertise the real limits on
8.1 million broadband customers (47%) do not know their download
limit and could be at risk of exceeding their ‘fair usage
policy’ – this is up from 7.5 million last year
•70% of major broadband providers are still prepared to
disconnect people that exceed limits – even when these are
advertised as ‘unlimited’
•Just 30% of major broadband providers are transparent and
advertise the true limits of their packages
•6.7 million (39%) broadband users believe the are on a
completely ‘unlimited’ package - with just one provider
offering a this, many of these consumers could be in for a shock
widespread criticism of the policy of imposing limits on ‘unlimited’
broadband packages, consumers are still being caught out. New
research from uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and
switching service, reveals that almost half (47%) of broadband
users don’t know the limit on their service. More worryingly,
over a third (39%) believe that their broadband package is unlimited
and could be opening themselves up to disconnection if they unknowingly
exceed the provider’s limit.
is over two years since uSwitch.com started campaigning against
broadband download limit transparency. During this time, Sky set
a precedent for other broadband providers by launching the first
completely unlimited service. Other providers have failed to follow
suit and offer their customers ‘true’ unlimited downloads.
The majority of broadband providers are still using the term unlimited
and still baffling broadband users by setting limits on their
packages. Just three of the major providers, Sky, TalkTalk and
AOL, actually publicise official limits.
unadvertised limits attached to broadband packages can be restricted
by providers through ‘limiting’, which is simply limiting
the level of downloads and ‘traffic shaping’. Traffic
shaping restricts the speed at which you can download certain
types of media and restricts the activity that can be performed.
This only demonstrates further confusion to the millions of broadband
customers in the UK.
research also shows absolutely no change in the percentage of
consumers who are misled, misinformed or just mystified. However,
with greater take up of broadband, these percentages are translating
into increasing numbers of consumers. 8.1 million broadband customers
(47%) do not know their download limit – up from 7.5 million
last year – and 6.8 million broadband users (39%) could
be exceeding limits set on ‘unlimited’ packages –
up from 6.2 million last year.
Digital Britain report revealed that 2Mb/s broadband should be
accessible to all by 2012 and it is predicted that the amount
of broadband users are expected to soar. With video applications
and services such as the BBC's iPlayer, ITV and 4OD catch-up becoming
more popular with consumers the unlimited issue is only set to
continue. Nearly one in four (23%) people with internet access
claim that someone in the household watches TV Online, up from
17% in 2008. A total 65% of UK households have a broadband package,
an increase of 7% year from 2008. With the increase in the number
of people using online services and the demand for downloads increasing
there is a real need for greater transparency regarding download
are still completely unaware as to how much their activity adds
up to in terms of their overall usage. Even activities such as
uploading files can contribute to their ‘acceptable usage’
and could cause users to breach the threshold set by their supplier.
This means that broadband customers are in danger of having their
services limited, suspended or even terminated by their provider.
issue is compounded by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
It currently allows providers to describe services as ‘unlimited’
even if there is a fair usage cap, as long as it is detailed in
the small print. If consumers are not vigilant enough they could
get a nasty surprise if they inadvertently break the rules and
max out their so-called ‘unlimited’ service.
usage policies are referred to in the terms and conditions of
a broadband contract. It is within this small print that broadband
companies get away with classing their packages as ‘unlimited’.
Most ‘fair usage policies’ generally state that a
company has the right to limit a customer’s broadband service
when usage is ‘excessive’. But on closer inspection,
few companies actually define the term ‘excessive’,
making it impossible for a broadband user to know the exact point
that they will go over the limit.
Glynn, communications expert at uSwitch.com, comments: “The
solution is easy, broadband companies should not be allowed to
class their packages as unlimited if they are not. Providers are
confusing consumers to the extent that broadband users do not
even know if they are approaching or exceeding a download limit.
The ASA and Ofcom really need to take action and actually set
strict guidelines on the advertising of broadband packages. These
policies are confusing enough without customers having to worry
if they are going to have their service terminated. Imagine the
confusion amongst UK motorists if the speed limits on our roads
were described in a similar way.
concludes: “While providers continue to promote broadband
in this way, people really need to be savvy when choosing their
package and pay close attention to the small print. Sky really
is the exception and for those consumers who don’t have
the time or patience to read through small print, this supplier
is the obvious choice.”
For more information please contact:
Jo Ganly or firstname.lastname@example.org
uSwitch.com is a free, impartial online and telephone-based comparison
and switching service, helping consumers compare prices on gas,
electricity, water, heating cover, home telephone, broadband,
digital television, mobile phones, personal finance products and