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Consumers set for better cancellation rights over poor broadband speeds

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
The communication regulator has outlined a number of proposals to close the gap between advertised and actual broadband speeds.

Ofcom has launched a consultation requiring internet companies to give customers better information on the estimated range of broadband speeds they are likely to receive.

Broadband speeds are not consistent throughout the day, often falling during busy periods when more people go online. As a result, actual speeds can be lower than the advertised ‘up to’ speeds.

It said the information provided should reflect the slower speeds users can experience at peak times (8-10pm). Providers should give a minimum guaranteed speed before the point of sale, not just when requested in after-sale documents (already a requirement).

Ofcom is also looking to bolster the consumer rights and protections available for broadband users who experience poor speeds.

Currently, bundle customers (those who buy broadband, TV and phone packages all in one) who experience broadband speed issues aren’t able to cancel the whole contract.

Under today’s proposals, Ofcom is seeking to allow bundle customers to exit without penalty if speeds fall below a guaranteed minimum level and the provider is unable to improve it within a month.

A final decision on the proposals – which, if approved, would apply to members signed up to its code of practice (approximately 90% of the market) – is expected in 2018.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s consumer group director, said: “We want broadband shoppers to know what they’re buying, and what speeds to expect. 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.”

Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at uSwitch, said this 30-day fix window should drive providers to be more proactive in sorting out problems.

He 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.

“What we need to see – and what we have been calling for – is for this information to be opened up so that consumers can compare different provider speeds side-by-side at the point of comparison.”

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