Ofcom sets some broadband prisoners free

New Ofcom rules will allow broadband customers to break their contract if they don’t get the speeds promised by their ISP – but only in the very worst of cases.

Ofcom sets some broadband prisoners free

The telecoms regulator is revising its voluntary code of practice for broadband providers, with new measures to help customers who find themselves trapped in long contracts with under-performing ISPs.

Broadband providers will be obliged to give customers more accurate line speed estimates at the point of sale. The ISPs will give new customers a range of expected speeds, under a breathtakingly complex new formula devised by Ofcom.

Ofcom has created an even more complex code, which is less accessible to the average user

ISPs will provide an estimate that ranges from the speed 20% of customers can expect to receive at that distance from the telephone exchange, to what 80% of customers could expect to receive. For example, customers who live 2KM from their local exchange could expect speeds of between 4.5Mbits/sec and 11.5Mbits/sec on an ADSL2+ service.

However, only customers who receive actual speeds in the bottom decile – the lowest 10% of expected speeds – can demand to leave their ISP.

Ofcom admits there’s no way for customers to work out what that exit-clause speed is by themselves, because the bottom 10% of speeds will vary between ISPs.

“The ISP must tell the customer their minimum guaranteed access line speed and explain that if the technical fault cannot be fixed, then the customer will have the opportunity to leave their contract immediately and without any penalty provided this is within a three month period of the start of their contract, or longer (if the ISP so chooses),” Ofcom’s code of conduct states.

Too complex

Industry watchers have attacked the new regulations for being too complex. “Whilst we support Ofcom’s efforts to ensure broadband providers are more open with consumers about what they should expect from their broadband connection, we feel that Ofcom have missed an opportunity to redraft the code itself in a format which consumers could better understand,” said

“Instead of providing additional guidance notes which would assist providers in interpreting the code, Ofcom has created an even more complex code, which is less accessible to the average user.”

Worse still for consumers, the new code of conduct won’t come into effect for up to a year, while ISPs retrain their staff and update their systems.

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