OTTAWA – Canadian consumers have high expectations of advertised internet speed claims but receive little information from internet service providers to judge them on, according to the Public Interest Advocacy Centre’s (PIAC) latest report: “Transparency in Broadband Advertising to Canadian Consumers.”
The report examines broadband internet advertisements such as commonly used “up to” speed claims and sought consumers’ views on whether these advertisements are clear.
“When an internet package advertises a maximum speed, Canadian consumers expect the maximum speed advertised will be achievable at their home connection,” according to Janet Lo, Legal Counsel at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and co-author of the report.
PIAC’s survey gauged consumer expectations towards “up to” speed advertisements by walking consumers through a series of sample advertisements to assess whether consumer impressions shifted after reading a disclaimer about the speed claim achievability. In each scenario, a majority of consumers mistakenly believed they would achieve the maximum advertised speed, no matter the style or clarity of the “up to” speed disclaimer.
“Internet service providers provide very little information to consumers about technical factors and their effect on the achievability of the advertised speed claim,” noted Lo. “The fine print is confusing to consumers and does not tell consumers how to check the actual speeds they are receiving.”
Further complicating matters is a lack of consumer awareness. PIAC’s survey showed 75% of respondents did not know which speed tier to which they subscribe, even though 83% of consumers identified download speed as very important or somewhat important when choosing an ISP for their home. PIAC’s report therefore suggests that consumers are not fully and effectively informed about internet speed and performance claims even though they have high expectations with respect to the achievability of promised “up to” internet speeds.
PIAC’s report recommends that ISPs provide more complete and precise disclosure about various aspects of internet performance and the reliability of these claims. It also recommends that ISPs ensure disclosures are prominent in advertising and in consumer contracts.
PIAC’s report recommends that the Competition Bureau of Canada consider specific enforcement guidelines focused on how advertising claims about internet speed performance are conveyed to consumers. The report further recommends that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) monitor the retail internet market by collecting performance data on Canadian retail internet service speeds and comparing that data to advertised claims.
The full report is available for download at:

thumb_pdfDownload File: piac_transparency_broadband_ads_final.pdf [size: 1.04 mb]

The full report is available in French for download at:

thumb_pdfDownload File: cdip_transparence_publicit_visant_large_bande_finale.pdf [size: 0.95 mb]

PIAC received funding from Industry Canada’s Contributions Program for Non-Profit Consumer and Voluntary Organizations to prepare the report. The views expressed in the report are not necessarily those of Industry Canada or the Government of Canada.
For more information please contact:
Janet Lo
Legal Counsel
Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)
(613) 562-4002 ext. 24