Economy

Ofcom promises clearer speed information for broadband consumers

Ofcom promises clearer speed information for broadband consumers”

If they don't, they will have to let the customer cancel their contract without a fee - which, for the first time, will also include contracts that include phone and pay-TV services bought with broadband.

"We want broadband shoppers to know what they're buying, and what speeds to expect", said Ofcom's consumer group director Lindsey Fussell.

"We plan to close the gap between what's advertised and what's delivered, giving customers a fuller picture before they commit to a contract".

Before a contract has been signed, providers will have to give a "minimum guaranteed speed" and be honest about the type of speeds people can expect during peak hours - described by Ofcom as being between 8pm and 10pm. We're also making it easier to walk away from a contract, without penalty, when companies fail to provide the speeds they promise.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, added: "Many people seek our help each year because their slow and intermittent broadband service falls short of what their contract promised".

A TalkTalk spokesperson said: "As a business we understand how important having a fast, reliable internet connection is to our customers, which is why we give every customer an individual speed estimate before they sign up and in all our welcome communications".

The plans are part of bringing about what Ofcom called a "step change" in Britain's broadband service quality.

Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at uSwitch, said: "Giving more information on what speeds consumers can expect can be a useful move, but burying this more detailed information in each provider's sales journey will only go so far".

The update is created to reflect the fact that many broadband consumers frequently find that the service speed they receive is substantially below the service they think they are buying.

If speeds fall below the minimum, the proposed rules say that ISPs will have a month to fix the issue.

Under Ofcom's current current code of practice, if you get speeds below the minimum guaranteed level, you have the right to leave your contract penalty-free if things don't improve - but there's no formal deadline.

The gap between advertised speeds versus what is received has always been a problem for many broadband users. This is because speed problems often arise when buildings connected by copper lie a long way from a local telephone exchange or street cabinet. This means Virgin Media customers will also be able to benefit from the enhanced protections. "We have been working with Ofcom and other ISPs to improve the code". According to Ofcom, providers are adequately abiding by the rules with their research showing an increase in compliance since their previous study. Ofcom will monitor their performance, and report regularly on compliance.

Andrew Ferguson, editor of Think Broadband, said: "The code-of-practice changes are very welcome, but it's clear from years of experience that broadband providers are not deliberately and systematically ripping off the customer".



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