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Ofcom promises clearer speed information for broadband consumers

Fri, 6th Oct 2017 15:23

(ShareCast News) - Broadband shoppers must receive better information about speeds before they commit to a contract, the regulator said on Friday, under a range of new protections it has set out.

In its proposals, Ofcom said broadband was now an "essential service", and speed remained a "vital factor" when shopping around for the right deal.

But it said there could be a mismatch between what broadband customers believed they were buying, and what they actually received.

Ofcom said it was proposing to enhance its existing codes of practice, which commit internet companies who have signed up to them to give customers an estimated range of speeds they are likely to receive, as well as the right to exit their contracts penalty-free if their speed falls below a minimum level.

To further strengthen the hand of broadband customers, Ofcom said it was also planning to improve speed information at the point of sale and in contracts, by reflecting the slower speeds people could experience at 'peak' times, and by ensuring providers always gave a minimum guaranteed speed before sale.

It also wanted to strengthen the "right to exit" if speeds fell below a guaranteed minimum level.

Ofcom said providers would have a limited time to improve speeds before they would have to let customers walk away penalty-free.

For the first time, that right to exit would also apply to contracts that included phone and pay television services bundled with broadband.

The regulator said it also wanted to increase the number of customers who benefitted from the codes, by expanding their scope to apply to "all" broadband technologies.

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

"So 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.

"We're also making it easier to walk away from a contract, without penalty, when companies fail to provide the speeds they promise."

Ofcom said that broadband speeds were not consistent throughout the day, often falling during busy periods when more people are online, which meant actual speeds can be lower than the advertised 'up-to' speeds.

It said speed remained one of the most important factors in choosing the right broadband deal, adding that customers should be told before they buy a package what speed they were actually likely to experience at peak times.

Internet providers would also have to give people a minimum, guaranteed speed at the point of sale - not just if requested and in after-sale information, which were already requirements.

That would allow people to compare providers and shop around with confidence.

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

"For most people, a reliable broadband connection is a necessity - so when they don't get what they've paid for they should always have a quick and easy way out of their contract.

"These changes are an important step in giving consumers more power to hold their broadband provider to account for poor service."

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