/ Technology

Are you being conned over your broadband speed?

Snail on laptop

A new poll says almost half of us aren’t happy with our broadband speed. No wonder, the speed we get in reality bears no relation to what we’re promised in adverts.

The survey comes shortly after telecoms regulator Ofcom found that many internet service providers weren’t living up to the spirit of the broadband speed code of practice. This code was designed to make sure that people were told the speed they were likely to get when they signed up for a broadband package.

Oh, why are we waiting?

Ofcom’s come up with some new proposals – but, frankly, we’re a bit fed up with waiting here at Which? We showed in 2007 that consumers weren’t getting their promised broadband speed. Ofcom then found the same thing.

Ofcom introduced a voluntary code of practice in 2008 – and it’s this that Ofcom has found some ISPs aren’t sticking to. But this is three years after we raised the problem.

So how long do we have to put up with this? Three years after we showed consumers were being promised one thing and given another, there’s not been enough action. In any other industry there would be two words for this: RIP OFF.

What we want to change

There’s one key change we want – allowing consumers to end their contracts if what they get isn’t what they were promised. ISPs would then have an incentive to tell the truth, or else watch their customers go elsewhere.

At the moment, you’re locked into your contract (typically for a year) even if you’re not getting what you expected.

Ceri Stanaway, our broadband expert at Which?, had these words of warning for ISPs:

“UK broadband users aren’t asking for the earth – just for a little honesty from our ISPs. Surely it’s in broadband providers’ best interests to be realistic and open about the speeds we should expect. Otherwise they run the risk of unhappy customers who’ll ditch them at the soonest opportunity because of broken promises.”

So come on Ofcom – stop time wasting and start regulating.

[UPDATE JUNE 11 2015] How new Ofcom boss says she’ll improve services for you.

colin_e says:
7 October 2010

As several comments have said, an Internet service is now as critical for running a business from home, or remote working, as electricity is. Both of these are supposed to be government priorities.

No small consumer has the clout to force a proper Service Level Agreement (SLA) from an ISP, so the supplier can simply fail to deliver anything like what they sold the customer and he/she still has to pay. This would not be acceptable in any other are of business.

Sadly, like most regulators in this country (FSA anyone?), OFCOM has been allowed to become far too cosy with the suppliers and seems to treat them as it’s customer, not the public.

OFCOM needs to be replaced by a body with a clear remit to be a consumer protection body, not an industry mouthpiece.

This body should have the power to set standard SLA terms for the industry (e.g, if a service fails completely, or fails to reach the advertised performance on a certain day, the customer doesn’t pay for that day.). It should also act as the first point of call for adjudication on claims for damages to business caused by Internet service failures.

Yes, this would increase prices (although not as much as the industry would have you believe i’m sure), but the current system isn’t so much a business transaction as gambling on the chance that you might get something like the service you payed for, with no recourse if you don’t.

Internet service Providers need to eb held accountable. if you bought a chocolate bar and it said 100g but there was actually 10g in there then authorities will get involved. This is exactly the same principle, anyone who thinks it is not is a moron. Almost everyoen is conned, some more than others. I am supposed to get like 20mb/s and the average here for my ISP (BT) is 6.7mb/s and mine is 1.9mb/s today. this is unacceptable. This is what tha ASA is for. start indictments or whatever. They need to be held accountable, no more!

I thought it would be interesting to have a look back at one or two of the older topics on Which? Conversation.

My ISP has – at last – stopped referring ‘up to’ speeds, which have annoyed me and many other customers. There is a postcode checker that gives a minimum, maximum and average download speed. I have never managed to achieve the average download speed for my postcode area.

We may come to respect our ISPs for their honesty, but that may be some time off. Thanks to Ofcom’s efforts, I don’t think we are cheated so badly. and I no longer feel the need to make constructive criticism to my own ISP.

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12 February 2013

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