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Millions of households could get faster internet without paying more

Written by: Danielle Levy
Broadband, mobile phone and pay-TV providers will have to tell customers about their best deals, under new rules from telecoms regulator Ofcom.

The initiative forms part of the regulator’s review of broadband pricing for loyal customers, who may be paying more than they need to.

The review follows the publication of figures by Ofcom, which show that 94% of UK homes and offices are now able to get superfast broadband but less than half have taken it up. The regulator also found that around four million households with old-style, basic broadband have passed their initial contract period and could switch to superfast for the same or less money than they currently pay.

In light of this, Ofcom is putting a range of measures in place next year to help people to get a better broadband deal. Firstly, customers will be told about the best available deals, both when their deals are coming to an end and every year after that if they don’t change their deal.

Secondly, Ofcom is launching a review of broadband companies’ pricing practices. It will examine why some customers pay more than others, and whether vulnerable customers need extra protections to ensure they get a good deal.

Finally, it has launched a new information campaign and website, Boost Your Broadband, today. Backed by consumer champion Gloria Hunniford OBE, the Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and consumer body Which?.

The website uses Ofcom data to tell people what broadband they can get in their area, and offers impartial advice on how to find the best deal.

Sharon White, Ofcom’s chief executive, said: “We’re concerned that many loyal broadband customers aren’t getting the best deal they could. So we’re reviewing broadband pricing practices and ensuring customers get clear, accurate information from their provider about the best deals they offer.”

Step in the right direction

Charity Citizens Advice welcomed the new rule that forces companies to regularly notify customers about the best deals on offer. It decribed the initiative as a “step in the right direction”. However, it believes that more can be done to protect those who are vulnerable.

“The regulator has admitted vulnerable consumers may need additional protection. Now they need to take decisive action,” said Gillian Guy, chief executive at Citizens Advice.

“Broadband is an unbalanced market dominated by a small number of powerful companies. The millions of people who rely on the services they provide need an independent advocate to fight on their behalf,” she added.

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