/ Technology

How does new Ofcom boss say she’ll improve services for you?

Today we hosted the first public speech by Ofcom’s new Chief Executive Sharon White as she set out how she plans to make it easier for you to switch to a better deal and get the services you’ve been promised.

Under Ofcom’s new proposalsyou’ll be able leave your broadband contracts without penalty if you don’t get what is promised, and providers will need to give better information on the broadband speeds you’ll realistically get.

We know unreliable broadband speeds drive you crazy, so it’s great see the regulator taking action.

Sharon was joined on the panel by Which? Executive Director Richard Lloyd, TalkTalk’s Chairman, Sir Charles Dunstone, and Openreach Chief Executive of Openreach, Joe Garner, before an audience of consumers, Which? supporters and industry people.

So, how else does Ofcom plan to improve things for you?

Simpler switching and better information

The panel was quizzed on issues including why you have to pay to unlock your mobile handset and what Ofcom is going to do about making bills clearer, so you know what you are paying for. Sharon White outlined four key ways the industry needs to improve:

  • Easier switching: making it simpler to switch, including being able to cancel without unfair penalties and coordination between providers for a smooth transfer
  • Better information: Making available clear and accurate information in advertising and at point of sale, so you can genuinely compare offers and make effective choices
  • Improved contract terms: Clear and fair terms with no hidden charges or lock-ins
  • Better complaints handling: Setting out simple steps when you wish to complain or when things go wrong. It means doing everything possible to avoid a dispute in the first place, including the chance for you to ‘walk away’ when services fall short. It also means clear signposting of alternative dispute resolution services – which are free to use.

So what’s our verdict?

Which? Executive Director Richard LloydWe’ve been calling for changes to make it easier to switch telecoms providers, so we’re pleased to see it’s a priority for Ofcom. We also look forward to swift action to tackle other problems facing customers, including competition in the communications market.

We think this is an encouraging start by the new chief executive, particularly at a time when Ofcom faces big challenges.

We look forward to working with her to ensure consumers have more power to drive competition and growth among the best businesses, while protecting those who are vulnerable.

What do you think of the changes that Ofcom is planning?


Regarding speed issue – I really do not think it will make any difference to most people.
1) How and when do you measure the contracted speed ?
2) The infrastructure determines the off-peak speed for most people , ending the contract and changing ISP will make no difference.
3) However it will allow people who are not happy with the Fibre speeds to drop back to ADSL2+ and save a lot of money .

It’s not about the infrastructure – it’s about consumers being able to switch with no penalty. If enough people switch without the contractual penalties these sharks are (currently) allowed to bill, then maybe, just maybe they will be motivated to try and improve their service. So ending “contracts” with no penalty is a huge energising vote for consumers. Wake up and smell the coffee !!!

The point is that for most people switching will achieve nothing the speed of connection will be exactly the same whoever you go with as its set by the infrastructure not the ISP

TroyB says:
13 June 2015

this is not the case with me, I am currently with TT with an estimated speed of 3-4mbps, i am getting 3.5 i am changing to BT with estimated speed of 4-6mbps, so if i get the lower its still an improvement

Charles76 says:
13 June 2015

Best of luck as BT / Openreach are the main suppliers of most of the boardband equipment and I have been waiting over five years for them to get their act together to give our area 20+ mbps fibre boardband. BT are only interested in selling their TV packages these days.

Barry Driscoll says:
13 June 2015

If you don’t want to be disappointed, avoid BT at all cost, I changed to save money but it has been the worst decision I have made and I shall go back to Zen as soon as I can

Ron, I think you are more hopeful than you should be. Despite Which?’s up talk, the detail released through the media earlier this week is much less encouraging. Like the other ‘regulators’ for services, Ofcom talks much bigger than it acts. I hold out little hope of any significant change in favour of the consumer.

John Davies says:
13 June 2015

This would be fine but many of us do not have alternatives to BT copper network. I have BT fibre underneath the road outside my house for past 12 months but BT won’t upgrade/replace my local cabinet with a fibre one.

Yet I have to continue to pay high charges for the slowest first generation ADSL, when al great deal of people are getting reduced cost Fast fibre in the cities.

Ray says:
11 June 2015

Better servers would make us all happy i think .

customer service more or less non existent with Plusnet.When your phone and broadband have gone down and you try to contact them on a mobile you are always told minimum wait is 15 minutes which costs a fortune.I have just got my phone line back after waiting 9 days.Better than last time when it took Plusnet 7 weeks to get Open Search here.

Plusnet is part of BT, so your experience is hardly surprising.

Charles76 says:
13 June 2015

PlusNet are tired to BT, the Bad Boys, who just don’t know what service is as their customer service people are in India, just as TalkTalk people are located in Mumbi. PlusNet customer service is good, as at least their people speak English that one can understand and are truthful. If one is after a good speed then one has to bite the bullet and pay Virgin Media its high charges; £28.50 for 50mbps boardband.

Nick says:
11 June 2015

A few months ago following a call from BT, and because ‘I am such a good customer’ I switched to Fibre Broadband but can honestly say that I don’t find it any different! At times it is still very slow and until I read the previous post was thinking of switching to Plusnet; ah well, back to the drawing board!!!

anne rose says:
13 June 2015

I have switched from sky to plusnet and am so chuffed. higher speed 65mb.. as well as great saving of £9 per month for unlimited broadband and free international calls 30min. cheers plusnet!

I switched to Plusnet from BT a month ago on a deal with £100 cash back and a discount of £7.99 per month on BB. Their Anytime call package,at £5, is far cheaper than BT’s. Comparing their package with BT who I’d been with for more than 10 years, I’ve saved £150 for the year. And I can understand their customer service staff even though I had to wait 15 minutes on the phone to reach them (very poor). BT’s ‘best’ deals are only open to new customers so that shows what they think of customer loyalty. Switching this essential service is a bit nerve-wracking but I am glad I did it.

Kelvin Bland says:
11 June 2015

This is a bit of con as my provider says they will provide speeds over a low figure so no guaranteed high speed so means nothing. 4Kbps is our normal speed!

B.J.Owens says:
11 June 2015

My broadband supplier as part of tv package is Virgin via their fibre optic network, my contracted speed is 50megabit/second . I regularly check via Speednet.com on laptop , tablet and smart phone , download speeds rarely falls below 55mbs and upload 3.5 mbs . I am very pleased with their service.

Ms g marshfield says:
13 June 2015

Yes me to I think Virgin are brilliant even there customer service is excellent so different to a lot of company’s these days.

Tim Anderson says:
11 June 2015

I am with talk talk and they are just as bad as most, my speed never goes higher than 4meg and never has. at its worst we had to go back to a 56k modem for more than three months and no refunds. They just told me that my contract stated “up to 20meg” so tough. They have us by the throat, we all need to stand together against these mafia like companies and now we can online we have real power. Go to the company’s Facebook page and post how bad they have been and then on to their home page and complain, then share it on your Facebook page and get your friends involved. Together we are strong people so let’s get to work on these daylight robbers.

Kate says:
13 June 2015

I am with TalkTalk as well and have days without internet connections. Customer service seems an alien concept. However, we do live in an area that is known for slow internet connections and no upgrades will make a difference, some common sense has to be applied. One can not expect ‘super fast connections’ when the area/lines can not support this.
It is not amusing, but telling, when threatening an ISP with the prospect of leaving and seeking legal advise, that the company manages to fix the problem rather quickly.

Ms g marshfield says:
13 June 2015

I so agree with what you say people power rules.

There is a huge amount of negative comment on this site about BT.
We’ve been with EE for several years here in Antrim, Northern Ireland, and have never had a problem other than slowish speeds at times of heavy internet traffic.
HOWEVER, a new problem has emerged for those of us who like to watch football and especially the Champions League games. A BT advertisement in the D.Mail a day ago says that they’ll not be available on ITV next season and can only be watched on BT!!
This means that those of us who want to watch Champions League games will HAVE to switch our broadband to BT, which is something to which I am not looking forward and am not happy about.
Does anyone have any alternatives to offer?

Agree with ‘rarrar’s’ comments.
We have been waiting four years since the BT announcement about fibre optic cable to increase download speed from 2.2Mb and 255Kb respectively. We are still waiting.
BT, is a communication company who own OpenReach, also a communication company, however, it is OpenReach who install and maintain all cable and operating equipment. BT and OpenReach, in the writers opinion, do not appear to talk to each other. One would not trust either or both to organise a one car funeral, let alone anything more complex like Broadband!.
To add insult to injury BT have been charging for the fibre optic installation and BT Home Hub 5 router since Dec. 2014.
As of 11 June 2015, fibre optic cable installation to the house is still awaited, as well as internal work to connect all to the hub and network.
When this ERROR was pointed out to BT, their reply was, “It will all be resolved in the next quarterly billing payment”.
Have BT hired some of the dismissed ‘Bankers’ ??? to mix up this brew?
Makes ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ game look like child’s play.

Colin McMurray says:
12 June 2015

,I’m with TalkTalk and I’ve never reached the speeds they originally promised, in fact,if anything it’s going slower.
When I check my monthly account on line there is always a prompt to upgrade to fibre…..I wonder if the speed is manipulated on purpose?
When my contract expires in October probably switch to Virgin

About time that a Regulator (consumer champion allegedly) had some teeth, and is prepared to support the consumer – most regulators are so in bed with the sectors they are supposed to be regulating, that they favour the supplier, not the customer. I do wonder how the “failed broadband speeds” will be adjudicated – but if it sends a rocket up the suppliers, then its a good thing.

Mark says:
12 June 2015

Great step forward for the consumer thanks to Which but this needs to go further like mobile phone contracts if they do not give what they promise it’s a breach of contract and you should be able to leave with no penalties. Thanks from 1 consumer

I would prefer to see phones and charges sold separately but that would be much harder. I support Which? because separating the cost of the handset from the rest of the bill is a more realistic target.

Ofcom has been ineffective for years and let mobile phone companies and BT rip off their customers. It is a disgrace that 0800 numbers have only recently become free and that there have been so many confusing tariffs and hidden charges. It should not have taken pressure from charities and consumer groups to make telecom companies behave decently, Ofcom is supposed to do this.
I would like to know how much the CEO and top people at Ofcom earn, and is it the government and therefore the taxpayer who pay their salaries.

According to Wikipedia, Ofcom has received criticism for incurring unnecessary costs as a result of “extravagant Thames-side offices” and a “top-heavy salary bill”. It is possible that these criticisms are undeserved

Derrick Baker says:
13 June 2015

It will be very interesting to see how Ms White manages to resolve this broadband issue.
From my personal experience of Ofcom they are a total waste of space.
In August 2005 I complained that a pirate radio station close to my house was interfering with my FM radio reception. After many e-mails back and forth over the years the problem has never to my knowledge been resolved and I have been forced to purchase 2 DAB radios to enable me to listen to BBC radio 4.
Just don’t hold your breath

been with talk talk for long time was normal internet then change to Fibre speeds but i see it run slower when grandchildrens come around with their ipad as seep seem drop slower , cant get wireless work upstair as they say it due wall as it excuse same goes to my nowtv as it cant get wireless connect as the router is 20ft away from nowtv box as now they putting price up £10 and i feel they broken the rules by saying bills every month but i received every 4 weeks not month

erica hollis says:
12 June 2015

To those of us a long distance from the exchange, no amount of changing providers is going to improve speeds – our broadband speed is limited by the physical cable length.

The bottom line of what consumers want is a reliable internet connection with a reasonable speed.

Unless I am missing something, the new measures don’t seem to cover that most important factor of all – a useable service.

“Better information”, “Easier Switching”, Improved Contract Terms”, Better Complaints Handling” all sound good, but are next to useless when technology logistics deny you a reasonable service in the first place. I see these measures as creating even more ammo against bad customer service as customers queue up to complain and exercise their new rights from companies that are heavily dependent on the BT telephone/data network.

With football that was primarily via Sky now being taken over by BT Sport there will be less traffic via satellite and more via a broadband network that is already inadequate.

This means consumers with an already poor broadband connection can look forward to an even worse service as the network is overloaded. They can complain, switch, but it will make no difference to their service if it barely existed in the first place.

I only watch the odd football match but I think it is wrong that BT monopolise and hold our national sport to ransom. They might entice people back to their broadband by giving them free BT Sport, but I wonder how many of them realise they will have to pay for it after a year. Some people have said the only way they can watch football is by switching to BT broadband and this is also wrong.

I would suggest Ofcom first look at getting an acceptable internet service to everyone in the country and hold BT accountable.

Ms g marshfield says:
13 June 2015

Well said your so right.

This is excellent news for customers but it mustn’t stop at broadband speed. For far too long internet providers have been treating customers with contempt with their one-sided agreements and price increases applied on whim. In March I entered into an 18-month agreement with Talk Talk for a “Half Price Call Plan/Essentials TV Access Everything Plan” at £4.25 per month (instead of the normal £8.50). Two weeks ago I received notification from Talk Talk that my monthly subscription from 25 July 2015 will be increased to £5, and I am only 3 months into the agreement. I queried this with Talk Talk, to which its response was: “TalkTalk are increasing some of their service prices and all the Term’s & Conditions are on the TalkTalk Website regarding the legalities of being able to do this during a customer’s contracted period.” Preposterous if, as TT claims, it is allowed to do this. Also customers are always required to pay a month in advance for any package they choose. But, when we change from one package to another, the provider still collects payment one month in advance on the new package without seemingly taking into account the month’s advance payment paid on the previous package. WHICH! should take up these issues with OFCOM.

Karen B says:
13 June 2015

Last year I paid Talk Talk £126 up front for my line rental. This year when the renewal was due it had escalated to a staggering £180+, an increase of 50%. What the ???? Also I have had to enter in to an 18 month contract instead of the usual 12 month contract. The half price call plan that I am given is for 12 months only so apparently I will have to renew that after 12 months at which point I KNOW they will not give me so I will end up paying full price for the 6 months up to the end of my line rental agreement. My speed is supposed to be “up to 8meg”. I have never received even 3meg and last year was without internet acccess for around THREE MONTHS. Talk Talk/BT/whoever came and changed the router several times but it the end the problem was at the exchange which was BT’s problem. It eventually got fixed. I made TT give me refunds etc. I have now received an email saying that the prices are going up AGAIN and that certain (free) phone costs in the package that I currently have are being done away with. As a consumer I am stuck with their decision. If they change their contract with me (which is what they are doing) they should be made to let me have my original agreement in place until the end of my contract. They are just money-grabbing b*stards. And their call centre(s) are sh*te as well. I can hardly ever understand a word of what their “advisors” are saying. Rant over. For now.

Talk Talk have had a rotten reputation from the get-go so no surprises there. I wonder why anybody even looks at them.

m ellis-jones says:
12 June 2015

Once the children (other peoples) come home from school my internet is impossible no problem getting emails or twitter but when I try to get links from them it can be useless, just turn off and wait till very late at night or during the day, school holidays are the worse.

I would like to see action by Ofcom against the almost-compulsory bundles that mobile providers impose on their customers.

Imagine if we had to buy electricity and gas in this way – either guess how much you will consume in a month which wastes any units that you don’t use by the end of the month, or otherwise be stung with a unit price that is many times the usual price. For example, let’s assume that electricity costs around 10p to 25p per kWh, depending on supplier. Instead of charging you 12p/kWh, your supplier lets you buy a monthly bundle of 500kWh for £60 or otherwise you pay an inflated price of £1/kWh for incremental usage. If you don’t use up the full 500kWh, you lose the unused units and if you use more than 500kWh, then you pay £1/kWh. Neither Ofgem nor consumers would tolerate this with energy, so why do Ofcom and consumers tolerate it with mobile phone services?

The only purpose of monthly allowances and bundles is to charge the consumer in full for usage that isn’t fully consumed and to charge prohibitively high rates for any usage over the monthly allowance or bundle. This practice favours the mobile networks without giving any advantages to consumers. I’m not suggesting that consumers shouldn’t be able to bulk-buy their future consumption, but it is unreasonable to impose a monthly expiry on that purchased consumption. The consumer has paid for the consumption in full and should be able to use it in full or otherwise receive a refund of any unused consumption. It would be much simpler and fairer to charge for mobile phone service in the same incremental way as energy – just simple incremental usage prices at competitive prices, similar to Three’s 3-2-1 prices. Of course, mobile networks could offer volume discounts as well as period-based usage (e.g. a fixed fee for unlimited usage in a particular period), but it is an unfair commercial practice to charge consumers for usage that isn’t actually used. It is worth mentioning that the mobile networks offer simple usage-based postpaid tariffs to large corporate customers. That’s because large corporate customers don’t tolerate the ridiculous system of having to guess in advance how much each user will consume. Why can’t all consumers benefit from simple and fair incremental tariffs?

Is there any indication that other mobile service providers will follow Three and provide a PAYG service at competitive prices? I regularly visit an area where the network coverage by O2 and Three is non-existent and Vodafone is weak, so I’m currently restricted to companies that use the EE network.

In emergency, calls will be routed via another network if there is no signal. Perhaps Ofcom could persuade the networks to cooperate in this way for all calls. This would be very popular with customers and the companies could share cost according to network use.

I’m not suggesting that other networks should follow Three’s lead on a prepaid basis but on a postpaid basis. The large providers already offer tariffs similar to Three’s 3-2-1 on a postpaid basis as corporate tariffs, so why can’t all consumers enjoy the same? The reason is that bundles and allowances allow providers to charge for more consumption than it actually consumed. Consumers should refuse to put up with this, and Ofcom should be doing something about it too.

Lynda says:
12 June 2015

While the facility to change easily is a good thing we would be grateful for almost any speed as our broadband disappears several times a day – usually when you are doing something urgent. We are now with BT, but we had the same poor service with our previous ISP so is there any point in changing?