An industry body representing fibre broadband suppliers has asked European regulators to enact new rules that would ban what it claims is 'misleading' advertising that overstates the capabilities of some services.
In an open letter, President of the Fibre-to-the-Home Council Europe Ronan Kelly said that many countries in Europe, including the UK, still allow practices that can confuse consumers and lead them to incorrectly believe they are signing up for faster connections than they actually are.
He wrote: "We are witnessing 'fake fibre' advertising practices in several Member States using 'fibre' or 'fibre speeds' advertisements for copper-based broadband, when the advertised product is not genuinely based on a full fibre connection."
In the UK, many broadband deals that are described as 'fibre' actually use fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) technology, which only runs fibre-optic cables to the street-level cabinet, before relying on existing copper cables for the final stretch to the user's home.
The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that referring to these hybrid connections as 'fibre' is acceptable, as it claims the term "is seen as one of many generic buzzwords to describe modern, fast broadband".
However, Mr Kelly said this prevents consumers from making an informed choice about what options are available to them, and could hinder the take-up of full fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) services.
For example, he highlighted research by CityFibre that found almost a quarter of people in the UK believe they have a full fibre connection, when in fact the true figure is just three per cent.
This means many people in the UK are actually unaware they only have an FTTC service, which may not offer the same speed or reliability as a FTTH solution.
Mr Kelly added that other studies have shown that this could actually depress demand for full fibre as it gives people a false impressions of the performance of the technology.
"We are firmly convinced that the proper use of the word fibre in advertisements would empower consumers to make an informed choice and in turn have a beneficial effect on the take-up of Very High Capacity Networks, which is vital for investments in new fibre networks," he added.