LONDON: The broadband speeds highlighted in advertising are rarely achieved according to a UK consumer watchdog which wants to see the regulator step in to ensure consumers get what they have been promised.

Ninety per cent of people in a poll by Which? said speed was an important factor in choosing their broadband provider, but when the consumer rights group analysed data from Ofcom, it found just 26% of households with fixed broadband connections were getting the speeds they were paying for.

Around 15.4m households did not receive the 'up to' speeds advertised, it said, and only 17% of households with fixed broadband received an average speed that matched the advertised 'up to' speed, a figure that dropped to 15% during peak times in the evenings.

The average maximum speed that broadband customers received was only 68% of the advertised speed.

Advertising guidelines mean that only 10% of customers need to achieve the maximum advertised speed, but Which? said it had found three packages that couldn't even meet that.

In the case of two 76Mbps deals, from suppliers BT and Plusnet, only 1% were getting the top advertised speeds.

It called for broadband providers to be permitted only to advertise speeds available to the majority of their customers and to be upfront about how many people can actually achieve the speeds advertised.

Sebastien Lahtinen, of broadband website ThinkBroadband, told the BBC it was difficult to provide one message for all.

"The problem with marketing broadband services which are delivered over telephone lines is the service speed will depend on the quality of the line and without knowing your telephone number, a provider can't personalise this marketing message," he explained.

BT said its marketing was clear that customers "should not rely on headline claims, but instead use the personal speed quote we give them at the point of sale, which is based on their own line".

Data sourced from BBC, Which?; additional content by Warc staff