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Firms forced to be clearer on broadband speeds

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Internet providers will need to give a minimum guaranteed speed to potential customers before they sign up to a deal, the communications regulator has announced.

Broadband customers must receive better information about speeds before they commit to a contract, Ofcom has announced.

From 1 March 2019, providers will need to give a minimum guaranteed speed to prospective customers at the point of sale, whether they have copper, full or part fibre or cable technology.

If the speed drops below this level, broadband firms will have 30 calendar days to improve performance, otherwise customers will be able to walk away penalty-free. Currently providers have an unlimited amount of time to resolve the problem.

This right to exit a contract will also apply to bundles: landline and TV packages bought together with broadband. This means customers won’t be tied to a TV contract bought at the same time as their broadband, if speeds fall short of what was promised, and they decide to leave.

Internet providers will also need to provide more realistic peak-time speed information upfront as this is typically when speeds aren’t as fast when more people are online.

Average download speeds for residential customers are 34.6Mbit/s during the 8-10pm peak period, compared to average maximum speeds of 39.1Mbit/s.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s consumer group director, said: “Broadband customers must know what they’re signing up to.

“These protections will close the gap between the broadband speeds people are sold, and what they actually receive. And to give people extra confidence, we are making it easier to walk away – without penalty – if companies fail to deliver.”

Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at uSwitch, said the changes are welcome news for consumers who feel stranded on broadband speeds that don’t live up to their provider’s set minimum.

“Under this Code, greater onus will be placed on providers to bring the most seriously impacted customers’ speeds up to scratch within 30 days of the issue being raised, otherwise consumers will be able to switch away without exit fees. The hope is that this will light a fire under providers to be more proactive in sorting out problems.

“But we shouldn’t pretend this will by itself sort out the broadband reliability frustrations many of us experience. Despite superfast broadband now being available to 95% of the country, only 57% of customers believe they can actually access it. More needs to be done to help households move to a better service.”

Neudegg added that what is needed is for information to be opened up so that consumers can compare different provider speeds side-by-side in order to make an informed decision about the service that best suits them.

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