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All broadband & phone providers pledge to treat customers fairly

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

Broadband and phone customers will be able to switch provider hassle free under a new ‘Fairness Code’, the regulator has announced.

All of the UK’s major broadband, phone and pay TV companies have signed up to Ofcom’s ‘Fairness for Customers’ commitments, which aims to treat all customers fairly– whether they are signing up to a new deal, trying to fix a problem or switching to a new company.

Sharon White, Ofcom chief executive, said: “I welcome the commitments the providers have made, and the action they’re taking to ensure customers are treated fairly every step of the way.

“Great service cannot be optional. It has to be the norm. That hasn’t always happened in the past in broadband and mobile services, but there is now a growing belief from providers that putting customers first is paramount.”

The industry has also agreed to make prices clear and easy to understand, and give a prompt response to fix problems when things go wrong.

Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at comparison site uSwitch, said: “It is welcome news that Ofcom has managed to convince providers to sign up to this principle – although somewhat disappointing to do it on a voluntary basis rather than adding it to directly and firmly into industry regulations.

“These commitments could be helpful in balancing telecoms more in favour of the customer, many of whom have faced unnecessary hurdles and frustrations when trying to sort out their services.”

The commitments form part of Ofcom’s wider programme to promote fairness in the industry.

Since April, broadband and landline customers have been able to get compensation from their providers when things go wrong, without having to fight for it.

Providers must also inform customers when their contract is coming to an end, and show the best deals available.

From 1 July mobile phone customers will be able to change provider with a text message. Mobile providers will also be banned from charging for notice periods running after the switch date.

The commitments in full

  1. Customers get a fair deal, which is right for their needs. Providers offer customers packages that fit their needs and have a fair approach to pricing. Prices are clear and easy to understand;
  2. Customers get the support they need when their circumstances make them vulnerable. Providers understand and identify the characteristics, circumstances and needs of vulnerable customers – such as vulnerability due to a disability, age, mental illness or having recently been bereaved – and act to give them fair treatment and equal access to services too;
  3. Customers are supported to make well-informed decisions with clear information about their options before, during, and at the end of their contract. Providers design and send communications in a way that reflects an understanding of how customers generally react to information so that they can understand and engage with the market;
  4. Customers’ services work as promised, reliably over time. If things go wrong providers give a prompt response to fix problems and take appropriate action to help their customers, which may include providing compensation where relevant. If providers can’t fix problems with core services they have promised to deliver within a reasonable period, customers can walk away from their contract with no penalty;
  5. Customers can sign up to, change and leave their services quickly and smoothly. Providers ensure that customers who are leaving do not face additional barriers or hassle compared to those who are signing up to new services;
  6. Customers can be confident that fair treatment is a central part of their provider’s culture. Companies can demonstrate that they have the right procedures in place to ensure customers are treated well. They keep these effective and up-to-date.