/ 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?


I have been with TalkTalk for about 18 months. Before that I was with BT for may be 2 years. Before BT I was with TalkTalk. I moved from TalkTalk the first time because BT said they could give me a better broad band speed. This was not the case. They were a terrible company to deal with. When I moved back to TalkTalk things seemed OK. Speed has never been very good. I don’t believe any provider can deliver the advertised speeds. TalkTalk say up to 17 mbps. In reality, my line will only provide a maximum of about 7. If i’m lucky. Earlier this year I was suffering slow speeds and drop outs. Speed had dropped to 0.5 mbps. I called TalkTalk and after many calls managed to arrange for an engineer to call. House wiring was checked and was OK. Next a BT engineer was summoned to call. He replaced a commector in our portch which sped the broad band up to nearly 5 mbps. what an improvement. A new master socket was fitted because the old one made a conection when it felt like it. Since then we have experienced not being able to connect and drop outs on a daily basis. Neighbours also with TakTalk are experiencing the same issues. Talk Talk are on board again. They sent a BT engineer the very next day after my call. I class this as good service but only if they actually rectify the fault. He checked the outside lines and found them to be providing a steady speed. I am now waiting for a response from TalkTalk. It seems all the telecom companies place the blame with the third party when they don’t seem to be able to come up with any believable reason for the slow speeds and drop outs. Nothing ever seems to get resolved and we the punters have to continue paying.

Richard baker says:
13 June 2015

what you worrie,d about ee in Sidmouth Devon gies me 4.5 mb my son in Birmingham gets 30 or more no one cares about remote areas, I expect this is fast to some areas.
Useless internet providers only want the money never check to see how we are doing,
Should change I guess.

Richard baker says:
13 June 2015

Only the city’s matter , no help for urban areas.

“We think this is an encouraging start by the new chief executive” of Ofcom. I agree. It’s also a success for Which? and for all of us who’ve added our voices to their campaigns. It does raise a question, though – Why should companies have got away for so long with failing to provide adequate services and then charging people for the privilege of getting out of their clutches? (The decision-makers in the offending companies haven’t done badly out of this. I wish I could receive jewel-encrusted executive bonus payments for displaying the ethics of a vulture.) Anyway, well done to Which? for discouraging these corporate shenanigans.

I have BT Infinity…which is supposed to be “fibre optics”…but this is ONLY to the exchange…the connection to my house is copper wire…HOW is this a Fibre Optic service ? …I think the whole mob ought to be hauled before a tribunal to explain themselves and be punished with hefty fines accordingly…BUT,out of those I have been with,BT are the best up until now…I hope this remains the case.

It’s the accountability… or lack thereof… that will count.

Unfortunately, I consider that over the last 20 years politicians of all parties have chipped away at the means that were available to taxpayers/citizens to hold public authorities and services to account, now speeding up with the increase in privatisation, whatever the Cons tel us.

The removal of the Standards Board in 2010, leaving local authorities to decide for themselves how they want to deal with complaints (turkeys, Xmas and Alice in Wonderland), means that those with a majority of incompetent, disinterested or worse Councillors can happily drift on untouched.

Now the Localism Act 2013 is being ignored over the “right” of local consultations with regard to test drilling for fracking exploration.

So, much as I agree that the idea is excellent, albeit long overdue, I will reserve a considered opinion on its actual value for a while yet. Cynical? Moi? Too true… as an expert by experience.

Kindred spirit!

Unless you are fortunate and have fibre broadband there is probably very little difference in speed down a copper wire who ever your provider is. So I would say you should only pay for the speed that you actually get. Paying £ 17 odd a month for 3 meg at best is just a rip off, it should be more like £5.

Ofcom seem to miss the obvious every time!

Agree but even with Fibre the max speed is set by your distance from the cabinet and is likely to slow down as more people connect to fibre on your cabinet due to interference.

I had a call from Virgin asking me to come back to them. I left because of slow BB speeds. They told me they had new equipment & that things have improved greatly. I was reassured I would not have the same problems I had experienced before. I rely on broadband for my business so it’s very important to me. So I went back but the same old problems occurred in all their fury. I may have to leave for this reason so I’m really happy to hear about this.

Paul King says:
13 June 2015

I appreciate that there is capital cost in making reasonably fast broadband available everywhere, but, in this day and age (as they say), it really is essential. I feel for people trying to run a business or even do routine things, but without a broadband connection or very slow. This is much more important than HS2.

Paul King

John Price says:
14 June 2015

Shareholders come first followed by overpaid Management.. then with the few pennies left the Customer gets the Crumbs! The Joys of Privatisation!

Michael Wood says:
13 June 2015

I am not of this tech age and though I manage to do most of what I need to on my laptop I find that since I switched to BT fibre optic I find that speeds vary considerably and I lose contact with web sites more often than before. I am not able to say why this is happening but it certainly is not my experience of previous suppliers. Being non techy I cannot complain because I don’t know what is happening, is it my computer? is it the sites I visit? or is it slow or variable speeds? I am tied in for another 6 months or have to pay cancellation fees. If I had more info I may be able to complain so that is probably why they do not give out enough information.

Mohan K Dass says:
13 June 2015

Inaccurate broadband speeds will continue because there is no penalty imposed by law the same as Banking.
I hope a campaign to end the TV licensing will eventually end because I do not use this system but I am forced by law to pay this fee otherwise the penalty will be severe. No stimulating programmes and the only interesting is Question Time limited to one hour.
Please start a campaign to end this fee.
many thaks

Sandra Marshall says:
13 June 2015

In these days where the internet plays such a huge part in communication between all sectors of society, not having a stable fast broadband service is ridiculous. There really is no excuse for the difference in broadband speeds and I am glad this is finally being recognised.

frank birch. says:
13 June 2015

Very satisfying that Which are doing the business for joe public!

In my area there are 26000 businesses. 14,000 of these are run from home and I know of one that operates from a back room and turns over half a million a year. The property is in a small country lane with a 3mb service at best.
BT Openreach had a service available until recently called ‘Fibre on Demand’.
anyone could have fibre to their house at cost.
£3.50 per metre from cabinet to house.
£750.00 connection fee at the property.
£100.00 per month rental for a 330mb service.

Suddenly it has vanished from sight and ISPs don’t know about it.

Which wants to start chasing this up as well.

Laurie says:
13 June 2015

It’s all well and good for Ofcom to issue results/standards of service etc but I used the Which? speed checker daily for 4 weeks and then told my provider that I wanted to switch to another supplier. They then blinded me with specs that they said proved that my speed wasn’t as I’d said and that their specs were more accurate. When I question that they then said that they would send an engineer but if I was wrong and they were right, I’d be charged for the call-out plus any materials needed for checking. I wasn’t going to take that risk and I told them to forget about it.

Oddly the speed increased for a few days after that but now it’s back to normal.

acb says:
14 June 2015

I was getting a respectable 6.9 Mbps on an 8 Mbps BT package, upgraded to ADSL2 when it became available in my local exchange and went up to 12.22 against a hoped-for 17 Mbps. Not satisfied I switched to TalkTalk Simply Broadband and went up to 15.72 – not bad for 12 months free broadband. Recently fibre became available and I upgraded to Fibre Medium, up to 38 Mbps max., and am getting 21.90 – roughly a 40% increase for a discounted £5 per month for 12 months. The quoted estimated maximum is 27 Mbps. These speeds seem to be good compared to those reported here, but still fall a long way short of my expectations, especially in the light of all the propaganda about Superfast Broadband. I asked if I could upgrade to Fibre Large, up to 76 Mbps. The answer was yes, but my ISP was honest enough to say it would not be worthwhile as my line couldn’t handle it. I live less than 300 metres from the exchange and I suspect the problem lies with the copper telephone cable that supplies the housing development where I live. It was installed around 30 years ago and it looked in a pretty poor condition when I saw it a few months ago when the connector to my house was renewed. With all the other work that is going on, how long is it going to take Openreach to get round to replacing that?

Dougalbats says:
14 June 2015

That’s great for people who have a choice here in hull we are stuck with KC the only provider of broadband.

FRancis Loney says:
14 June 2015

Everything about the speeds available never seems to be true in my case and thousands of others. Improvements are offerred but never materialise but charges increase at regular intervals and the customer service never seems to improve but the newly won improvements are welcomed and hopefully more are to come. Is it worth changing suppliers when thet all seem to be as bad as each other.

Ian Weeks says:
14 June 2015

I agree that consumers should be given the service that they sign up to; “up to” starts at zero. However, I must say that the service I currently receive from BT actually exceeds my expectations.
I was getting about 2mbps download speed and about .8mbps upload speed on a heavily loaded copper connection. I manage a number of websites and this connection was totally inadequate. As soon as fibre became available, I switched to BT Infinity, and am consistently, and reliably, getting download speeds in excess of 70mbps and upload speeds around 18mbps. This also gives me a very reliable connection for my Sky TV service. It seems I’m one of the very lucky satisfied customers.

Tony says:
14 June 2015

As I live in the country my speed is poor 2/3mb for all providers. Why can’t they use the existing telegraph poles to carry optical cables – will the BT franchise let them?