Monday, October 9, 2017

Ofcom tells broadband providers to tell customers peak-time speeds

Ofcom has told broadband providers to give people better information about speeds before they commit to a contract.

The watchdog is introducing a raft of new rules to protect customers, in order to ensure there is no mismatch between what people believe they are buying and what they actually receive.

Under the new system, broadband providers will be required to give a minimum guaranteed speed before sale and tell people what connection speeds they can expect at peak times.

Ofcom believes this is necessary as broadband speeds are not consistent throughout the day and often fall during the busiest periods - which it defines as 8pm to 10pm for residential customers and 12pm to 2pm for business customers.

As a result, the actual speeds consumers receive can be much lower than the "up to" speeds that were advertised.

Lindsey Fussell, Consumer Group Director at Ofcom, commented: "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."

Ofcom also wants to make it easier for people to quit their contract if speeds fall below a guaranteed minimum level.

Providers would be given a maximum of one month to improve speeds before allowing customers to walk away without having a penalty imposed. 

This would also apply to broadband contracts that include pay-TV and phone services.

Commenting on the changes, Gillian Guy of Citizens Advice said they are an "important step" towards making poorly-performing broadband providers more accountable to consumers.

"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," she commented.

The Internet Services Providers' Association (ISPA) added that it is fully behind the approach being proposed by Ofcom.

Andrew Glover, Chair of the ISPA Council, stated that while its members are offering faster speeds across the UK, many factors can affect the speed that individual consumers can achieve.

"Some of these factors are outside of the control of the provider but we fully agree with Ofcom that speeds need to be communicated in a transparent manner," he said.

Mr Glover added that it will be important to ensure Ofcom's new code of practice works for all types of providers and that the underlying speed test procedures are accurate and robust.

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