The telecoms regulator, Ofcom, has announced plans to press ahead with updating the broadband code of practice. This will require signed-up providers to give more information at the point of sale about the service they can expect. Will this move help you?
I recently switched broadband provider. My job means I’m lucky enough to be clued-up on what I should expect from my provider, what information I need from it, and what my rights are. I know what questions to ask and what my provider is obliged to tell me.
Unfortunately, most people don’t know these things, and the jargon-heavy telecoms industry doesn’t make it easy to understand.
Most people probably don’t know that a code of practice for broadband providers even exists, either. And to be honest, as long as the initiative works for consumer outcomes, I don’t think it’s vital that they do know.
Under the current code of practice, signed-up providers (who together make up 90% of the broadband market) should give customers information about the estimated speed they can expect to get. This should be done at the point of sale.
Today, Ofcom is announcing that this will change, following a consultation on its proposals to update the code of practice. The move will mean that more realistic speed estimates will need to be given at the point of sale, so customers know what speeds they are likely to experience at peak times (between 8pm and 10pm for residential services, based on analysis).
Furthermore, the provider must give customers a minimum guaranteed speed. If it falls below that speed, customers will have the right to exit their contract.
Exiting a contract without penalty
Where providers are failing to provide the service promised to customers, it is right that they are able to leave their contracts without facing a penalty. The current code gives scope for customers to do that but new proposals will protect them further.
The right to exit will also extend to bundled products, meaning if you get your TV and/or landline package from the same provider as your internet you’ll be able to leave the whole contract. Providers will have 30 days to fix the problems or let their customers walk away.
It’s also reassuring that the new code will be technology-neutral. Currently, discrepancies in the way providers deliver services through their networks means they aren’t all subject to the same obligations. Ofcom will bring all providers under the same conditions, making it easier for customers to understand.
Compliance is key
Like anything, the importance will be how this is delivered to consumers. Ofcom’s own research last year found that compliance with the current code could be improved; 63% of telephone assessments resulted in the estimated broadband speed being given unprompted.
While it’s nice to see that most providers are complying with the code they voluntarily signed up to, you would hope that it would be 100%. When the new plans come into place one year from now, we’ll be monitoring providers to make sure they’re giving their customers all the information they are meant to have.
What do you think of today’s announcement? Would having a minimum guaranteed broadband speed help you understand what service you should be getting? Could providers be doing more to help customers understand what they should expect from their service?