/ 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?

Ian Edge says:
13 June 2015

Long ago,I was told that the limiting factor for a decent Broadband speed was that I was on copper wire from the exchange.
Now,TalkTalk offers “Fibre Optic” speeds of up to 38 Megs,(I get 7.8 megs on copper),the same copper cable remaining and the transfer to Fibre carried out at the exchange for £5.00 per month more.
This means that I was mis-informed of the limiting factor to decent speeds being my copper cable to the exchange,so
TalkTalk must be providing better speeds through using the fibre Trunk cables.
They should be investing in using this facility to bring us the advertised speeds and not charging us twice for this upgrade.
Has anyone else noticed how line rentals have “shot through the roof ?
These cables are all rented from BT Open Reach,and all of these firms have huge profits.
I think the whole telecoms network should be re-nationalised and services delivered at cost.

Mike Armstrong says:
13 June 2015

I too have a Talk Talk broadband. The speed is about 3.4mbs although it has been up to 6 mbs. The lines from the exchange to the BT junction boxes are all fibre although still copper to my home from the pole. Talk Talk reduce the speed so that they can get away with saying they never will when traffic is high. The whole issue is out of control and it is time this country had its broadband service examined so that we, the customer, get what we pay for.

Reg Fell says:
13 June 2015

most people do not get what they pay for its always a lot less than advertised my Talktalk is not good but its seems all the cabinets are over subscribed to so poor planing once again

Andrew pearson says:
13 June 2015

Rolling out high speed broadband should be THE priority infrastructure investment for the whole of the UK.
As a simple example, just take the vast improvement in teleconferencing which provides high definition clarity on both a domestic & international basis. Just think of the potential cost & time saving potential.
To fund this programme, I would propose a change in HS2. Start in the Regions by operating high speed rail links between our provincial cities rather than the already generally adequate rail links to London. I believe this would be a far more commonsense & cost-effective solution.

John E. Jones says:
13 June 2015

I have tried VIRGIN and now I have EE and they are all SLOW in Llanelli.SA15.

jan hartland says:
13 June 2015

I dont think it matters who you have your broadband with, they are all slow, and they all charge premium prices for this shoddy service.

Michael Moyes says:
13 June 2015

It seems that the area in which we live has a slow broadband speed, despite the council saying that they were paying to speed it up!

Mazza says:
13 June 2015

The Government should put more pressure on BT to use the massive funds they have received from tax payers to get a decent BB speed to everyone, NOT just SUPER fast to those who already get a reasonably good speed. We only get 0.5 – yes…. Nought point five – mbs whoever we but from, which is absolutely useless. All cabit ets should be upgraded, and new cabinets inserted in the network where the distances between cabinets and consumers will obviously never support decent speeds…….. I could go on, but the Government and BT know what needs to be done, and they should get on with it. We are a first world country with third world technology.

“Most of the country can now get superfast broadband, but you might live in an area where it isn’t yet available. Government and local authorities are investing £1.7 billion to help bring superfast broadband to over 95% of the UK by 2017.”

Living in the sticks has its advantages, as well as its downside. As the taxpayer (you and I) are paying for the upgrade it is a question of spending the (our) money as sensibly as possible, given all the other priorities – health, social care, for example. Prioritising the people who will benefit most for the least money seems a sensible strategy at the beginning. Business in populous areas is surely in that category. Streaming films and music comes lower down in my book.

Mazza says:
13 June 2015

You do not seem to realise just how many businesses there are in rural areas, especially farmers, who have no option but to submit GOVERNMENT form ONLY online, when very many have no internet at all. Also the thousands of children living in rural areas who cannot access the internet for their school work, which is becoming more and more necessary. Libraries in smaller towns and villages are closing, or open shorter hours, so their facilities are not available. Dont get me started on prioritising health and social car, which in many rural areas are also suffering from lack of support. Yes, I do pay my share of tax, and thus expect an EQUAL share of the benefits of spending from taxes. A huge part of the UK is rural, and yes, it may cost more to bring some servuces out a few miles further, but the country would not survive without rural industries. Not everything can possibly be provided for under the “commercially viable” banner. Some things jist have to be “loss leaders”, but, as BT and other major companies make plenty of profit, they can absorb it, and certainly do so in other areas of their business (eg BT Sports being offered at way below market value!)

KatieJ says:
13 June 2015

We too have a max. of 0.5 mbs – reality is 100 kps! What’s more, there is not enough room on the exchange for everyone to get broadband. When there is a vacancy, it is not the person who has been waiting the longest who gets the slot, but the next person who happens to ask!!!!!

I agree malcolm r that there are other priorities for the bulk of the public money, however a lack of connectivity can also affect health and social care. People who are already disadvantaged by their isolated situation and reduced access to public transport, are unable to take advantage of teleconferencing etc. through lack of any internet connection, never mind one with a higher speed.

Mazza, I do realise that. but they were there first, before broadband. There has to be some sort of prioritisation. With limited resources everything cannot happen at once.

John Price says:
14 June 2015

We are already paying for it! BUT instead of Re-investing as they should OUR money is being stuffed into the Fat Cat’s pockets, then paid out to the shareholders! That is the joy of Privatisation instead of using the money to improve the service it is gobbled up by massive bonuses faid out for abject failure (seems to be the way these days.. Make a total cockup of your job and get an obscene bonus! ALL of the profitable parts of the Post Office were sold off then squandered by the Government!! Basically what they did was to sell off what WE THE TAXPAYER OWNED and paid our taxes to maintain to fat cats who then absorbed the profits.. into Privately owned companies! People are so stupid! If I said to you I do like your car (That you worked hard to buy) then said that you could buy it from me for £50 would you buy what you already owned from me?? NO! That would be stupid wouldn’t it? But that is Exactly what Margaret Thatcher did she stole what we owned than sold it back to us? Very Clever! Nobody complained they happily bought the shares (Those who were greedy and could afford them) and robbed the remainder of the taxpayers of their country’s income concequently raising taxes to the current obscene levels!

BarrieJ says:
13 June 2015

I have zero confidence in Ofcom doing anything to alleviate this situation. They like every other ‘independent’ regulator are just sops to the consumer, put in place to pretend to regulate corporations, whilst allowing them to indulge and rubber stamping their greed.
Rip off Britain PLC, run with the full cooperation of HM Government.

Steve Carter says:
13 June 2015

Used to be with TalkTalk but got fed up with appalling customer service from staff who had English as a third language and who came out with the most ridiculous, patronising excuses for why the service was so bad. Switched to BT and, for a while, the improvement was remarkable, especialy with the (Indian) customer service staff, who were well-informed, efficient and very helpful.
Increasingly, the service has degenerated, with regular drop-outs and very slow speeds. After complaining, they sent (free delivery; that was big of them!) a “Hub 4” to replace our previous model. This, whilst proving to be nominally faster than the old model, keeps dropping the wireless connection and resetting itself – in addition to the incessant resetting we have to do anyway. Occurs mainly when raining or if there are problem atmospherics, so almost certainly due to the rubbish connection from the exchange to the nearby junction box, thence to our house. Been “fixed” a number of times but no improvement.
Again, rural location, so no incentive for Outreach/BT to put themselves out. Keep putting up the line rental though. Nice way to treat existing customers? Presumably these increases are to pay for them to give deals to new victims – oops, sorry – customers. It has been said that there has never been a time when DFS wasn’t having a sale. The same applies to BT, as I can’t remember when their “best ever” sale isn’t on. So, if you are considering changing to BT, then don’t hurry, there will always be another “best ever” sale around the corner.
Yesterday, told them to cancel our BT Sport service (not interested in the slightest in football, as that is what 95 percent of BT Sport is about) and they suggested that they could reduce our line rental – very slightly – if we took out another year’s broadband/phone contract. As we had already saved a little by paying a year’s line rental in advance, this would mean that when our “cheap” line rental runs out, then we would either have to pay 12 months in advance again to get the slight discount, or pay the full amount until the new 12 month broadband contract finishes at the same time as the “cheap line rental. So, no cost advantage overall then. The customer service chap didn’t seem to think that this was a problem. Presumably he can’t relate to anyone who may not want BT?
In conclusion (if you haven’t fallen asleep reading this yet!), re-nationalise this public service and replace the pure profit motive with good, cost-effective, customer-based service.

Barrie Potter says:
13 June 2015

Switching will make no difference to me. Apart from the fact that I’ve already got the cheapest deal for landline broadband, no one can offer me a faster speed unless I fork out a lot more for mobile (which is also dodgy where I live) or a small fortune for satellite. BT have no interest in upgrading the landline to my village, even though they have been paid by the government to ensure everybody would have at least 2mb (more than double my current connection).

Hurrah for consumer rights, a thoroughly sensible move long overdue. Service providers have been able to ride roughshod over their customers for far too long and this goes some way to redressing the balance

graham goodwin says:
13 June 2015

It’s about time some companies have been getting away with this for too long and using penalty clauses in the contract to hold onto your business

David Williams says:
13 June 2015

My broadband is “up to 24 Mbps” – I’m lucky if I get 4•5 Mbps on a good day.

Vic B says:
13 June 2015

I will believe it when it actually happens. The copper is the limiting factor.

Phillip Shukman says:
13 June 2015

If you remember that most companies are basically dishonest when dealing with customer complaints, then you will never be surprised at the service you receive from them.

My broadband is fast but the reliability is very poor even though we have new cables to the junction boxes but the older type of cables to our homes. I am with BT who run the whole network of under and overground cables.

Just remember that in this country poor service is the norm.

Julia Ortmans says:
13 June 2015

Our broadband speed in North Norfolk is about 1. 5mbs! sometimes slower – if you can imagine.
Its like living in a third world country that has just introduced computers. Occasionally if I am up at three am it gets to nearly 2mbs.
Is there any hope of improvement??

Wonder how that would work were I live, we can’t even get 1/2 GB. Why is everyone else looked after except for country people. Broadband companies just want to keep speeding up the large cities but are not interested in country areas. Recently I was put in touch with Sky who flatly told me that they were unable to supply me with broadband because of where I live. BT keep sending me invitations every month to join their fibre optic when they know fine well it’s not available in my area. So, come on WHICH stick up for those in rural areas.

clive says:
13 June 2015

It seem to me that you are all expected to keep paying and shut up.
Well the only thing that the big companies understand is mass withdrawal of business, so if we all give them notice! Of course we can’t do that because we all rely on the rubbish service.
Ofcom need’s to be given real teeth and the ability to bight, plus a government backing them up.
Live in hope.

EE everything everywhere or nowhere in my case. I must have been asleep the day I signed up. 7mb (up to) but mostly between 2 and 5 and that is in a suburb of Liverpool. Frequent drop outs and like Steve Carter, the BT line rental which we all have to pay keeps rising. The politicians of all parties nod their heads and mutter platitudes but appear to do nothing. What happens in other EU countries. Are they as bad as The UK ? If not why not. I suspect they are not held to ransom by telecom shareholders. £52 billion to be spent on a rail link to get us to planet London 20 minutes faster would be better spent upgrading communications for all. The lunatics are running the asylum!

ACN says:
13 June 2015

My provider,for some years, has been Phonecoop. In spite of my village having been upgraded I am not able to have high speed broadband. Something to do with their sub contractor. BT users are OK.
I DON’t want to change because of email addresses and the Phone coop support is e cel lent.

John Price says:
14 June 2015

I learned my lesson long ago, I was with Eclipse Internet for 10 years, their Customer service was excellent and British Based BUT there was a Limit on download amount! 10GB per month.. So I switched to BT.. Who’s Customer service was atrocious and based in India.. some of the accents were understandable but most of them gabbled and I had to ask them to SLOW DOWN! Far too late I realised that I had lost my @eclipse.co.uk email address and had to inform everyone of my email address change! So now I have OUTLOOK, LIVE and HOTMAIL email addresses so that if & when I change again I DO NOT lose my email addresses! As they are Web Based and not tied to my ISP!