/ 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?

JIM says:
14 June 2015

How else can you put pressure on these providers to provide what we are paying for. The best way is if you can exit their poor services as quickly as possible, and if every body leaves a certain provider at the same time so that they do not have ANY CUSTOMERS at all. Then you might get the providers to provide what we are prepared to pay for. PEOPLE POWER IS THE ANSWER.

John says:
16 June 2015

Spoken by someone who has an alternative.

If you need broadband, but have no alternative provider, then you are stuck. The “service” providers know this !!!!

We have no-one to switch to so it is extremely annoying to see Hi Speed broadband being offered by al these companies at half price or even free for a year, when I am paying full whack for an ancient broadband service. Am I out in the stocks? No, I’m in Commercial Street in London, on the edge of “the square mile” and BT say it is not economic for a fibre cab to be erected! God help anyone in the country!

Ed Powell says:
18 June 2015

I live in a rural area where it is a misnomer to refer to us receiving authentic broadband. Speeds are slow and we lose connectivity on a regular basis. In effect, we have paid Talk Talk for an inadequate service. I have raised a number of complaint issues with this provider. TT’s responses to these issues have been unacceptable; believing apologies without remedial action constitutes effective customer care. As a result,I have referred the matter to the Ombudsman. I have also sent a second letter to Baroness Harding, TT’s CEO, who has not had the courtesy to respond. The manager who responded to the issues demonstrated a lack of appreciation of the key issues. I wanted to share with this forum, my specific concern about TT’s diagnostic speed tool which, and in the presence of a TT engineer, gave invalid and unreliable readings. This raises an important question: how valid and reliable on a nationwide level is this tool ? I shall be switching as soon as possible without penalty. Should TT have the timerity apply a financial penalty,given their unacceptable service, they will be whistling in the wind.

It is 35 years since I purchased my first mobile phone. I remember it well it was like carrying a building block around. The service provider at that time was Vodaphone. Im still with Vodaphone and quite frankly, the quality of signal is no better now than all those years ago. Isnt it about time with all the expensive charges that these organisations have been charging, that they provide us with good signal service wherever we may be? Im fed up to the back teeth of standing on 1 foot, in the middle of a field with my back to the sun waving the phone around like a demented flag bearer in order to get a signal – its totally unacceptable. When the wind blows our landline invariably goes down. It then needs me to get in my car, travel 5 miles in order to get a signal to inform BT that the landline isn’t working. This is also not a very good experience as Im usually kept on line listening to piped music, at my expense whilst they take their time to answer. Considering this organisation is in the business of communications – beggars belief? The last time that I did this it cost me over £20.00 in extra mobile charges! When eventually they do put their cups down and stop chatting about the previous evenings Emmerdale, It then takes BT 2 weeks to get around to fixing the problem. Oh and then they have the audacity to say that if the fault is in my house then they will charge me £99.00. I already pay a massive service charge for my landline – I suggest that if I have to pay extra why am I being charged a service charge in the first place. It is obvious, like all the other “utilities” that the government has sold off to foreigners that they simply are not interested in customer service, just extorting as much money from their customers as they can possibly get.

twistedone says:
15 June 2015

isit not time you did what other people seem reluctant to do and awitch both land line and mobile,or are you one of the multitude of moners who would rather moan about something than doing somthing about it

Mazza says:
18 June 2015

That is a totally unacceptable reply Twistedone. As previously commented, some of us have no choice of mobile supplier or broadband supplier, and anyway, in the end it comes back to BT. All that would happen if one was with another supplier, is that you phone them, they then contact BT Openreach whose engineers have to sort it. It would be unlikely that the service or time-frame would be much different. It would be good if those on this blog who DO have a good service, would accept that those of us who dont have done a raft of things to try to get better service. We dont just sit here and moan. We do switch, we do write letters and emails (when we can get online) and make phone calls, but invariably it gets us nowhere. I have spent far more time on this issue than on any other service or insurance etc over the past 10 years. We are in the 21st century and to not have acceptable mobile and BB signals is unacceptable.

Ed Powell says:
18 June 2015

With you all the way.

zak says:
14 June 2015

About time the brake from profit before service and fat cats hope it is the start for good

Gordon Ames says:
14 June 2015

Well done all and Sharon White, please keep up the pressure. I like my package from talk-talk but I am fed up with the call centre not being in the U.K. There are also times that the speed really gets me down. I have been with talk-talk for a long time now but I am beginning to look around. I am also fed up to the teeth with B.T. and there snotty attitude I have asked them to remove me from there mailing list so many time and they just ignore my request and the last phone call had me hanging on for just under 30 minuets. B.T would be the last company that I would ever go to.
Go for it Sharon I wish you well in your job. pastor Gordon Ames.

I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed with BT too as their call centres are not based in the UK either. It’s really annoying when you have a query about your telecoms & you get someone with a strong asian accent on the line who doesn’t have a clue about who you are, where you live, whether it is in an urban or rural situation & who is answering from a script verbatim & with a really bad understanding of UK English. I know it’s a huge amount cheaper for BT & other companies to use offshore call centres in the Philippines, Africa, India & Pakistan but it does nothing for their customer service record at all. If a company is based in the UK then that’s where the call centres should be.

John says:
17 June 2015

Agree totally Lorna, except for one thing. Call centres abroad were cheaper back 5 or 10 years ago. They aren’t now. UK call centres are cheap with mainly poor salaries. Some corporates have bitten the bullet and taken the hit on costs for moving their call centres back to the UK because they realise the issues you mention affect their brand image badly. Sadly telcos stay abroad because they do not consider their customers other than being cash cows.

An example being BT that has the network monopoly for most of the UK outside cabled areas, and just milk it for huge profits with minimal investment on the infrastructure. Just enough to appease the politicians in Downing Street, who let’s be fair, have no real clue of the world outside the SE of England.

Ms. White will have no more effect on the telco industry than any of her predecessors because ger office has no clout given to them by government. Always “ticks in the box” for little meaningless things instead of ticks in the box for the major issues consumers UK WIDE want..

Mark Smith says:
14 June 2015

Broadband speed is only part of the problem-there are still many areas in the UK today where you can’t even get a decent mobile phone signal which is totally unacceptable.

Nigel Gibbs says:
14 June 2015

I have been left with no other option than to leave TalkTalk, as of March 5th 2015 they stated they were enhancing AOL internet !!!, since that date I have contacted there so called customer service dept. all seem to be located some were in the Indian Ocean !!! over 10 times, to be placated with that ” this time TalkTalk ” will get the problem sorted. every time I log on to AOL TalkTalk it takes me to the old version then states my password is not correct ?then I re-enter the same password and it logs on, then after 3 mins it freezes so I have to refresh again & again up to 20 times a day, of course in the service message box from TalkTalk they keep stating that there engineers have corrected the problem !!!!, so after 3 months of unworkable internet service I decided to leave TalkTalk they then have the Gaul to say as I am leaving 6 weeks early they will charge me £29.00 for the privilege of breaking the contract were as in fact they have been the one’s not giving “internet service fit for purpose” TalkTalk should be paying me back 3 months of fees. I am disgusted with their attitude &so called service, how can I get my £29.00 refunded.

Nigel Gibbs

Hi Nigel, we’re sorry to hear that you’ve had some problems leaving your contract early.

As you’re trying to cancel before the minimum contract term is up, you’ll have to pay an early termination fee. However, we’ve published lots of advice about what you can do if your broadband service is constantly interrupted, here:


Have you considered joining the Which? Legal Service, too?:


The lawyers in Which? Legal can advise on lots of consumer problems about goods and services.
Whichever route you use for help, we hope you’re able to get this matter resolved.

About time something was done about slow broadband speeds. They don’t have much hassle in Europe only here in good old rip-off Britain. Mobile phone companies are also a pain in the a**e in this country. Everyone of them thinks they are doing you a favour letting you use their overpriced phone company. It’s all sales and no service and their prices are higher than Europe.

I would like to see greater enforcement of EU roaming price caps, which will no doubt be a problem again on 1st July 2015. The price caps specified in EUR without VAT in Articles 8(2), 10(2) and 13(2) of Regulation (EU) No 531/2012 are not subject to any reduction on 1st July 2015. However, in accordance with Article 1(7) the EUR/GBP rate is recalculated each year by taking the average of the rates published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 1st March 2015, 1st April 2015 and 1st May 2015, which is 0.72727, some 12% lower than the average of 0.82581 for the same dates in 2014. Consequently the price caps from 1st July 2015 in GBP will be £0.1382/min (£0.1658/min incl VAT) for outgoing calls, £0.0364/min (£0.0436/min incl VAT) for incoming calls, £0.0436 (£0.0524 incl VAT) for outgoing SMS and £0.1455/MB (£0.1745/MB incl VAT) for data. Given that most UK mobile networks set their EEA roaming prices at almost the maximum allowed by the price caps, they will have to reduce their charges by at least 12% on 1st July 2015. Based on past experience, a lot of networks will fail to comply.

UK VAT of 20% is added only when roaming inside the EU VAT area, but not when roaming in parts of the European Union and wider European Economic Area that are outside the EU VAT area, specifically Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Gibraltar, the Åland Islands, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Réunion, the Canary Islands, Ceuta and Melilla, in accordance with Article 19 of the Value Added Tax (Place of Supply of Services) Order 1992. This is because the United Kingdom opted to exempt non-EU VAT area roaming from UK VAT under Article 9(3)(a) of Council Directive 77/388 (“the Sixth VAT Directive”) so that it could charge UK VAT on services used in the UK but billed outside the EU (e.g. US-based services marketed to UK residents). Some UK mobile networks exceed the roaming price caps by adding 20% VAT that isn’t due, and Ofcom should take action against them.

John says:
17 June 2015

If the last comment in NFH;s post is correct, what are Which doing about it? I see Which Legal comment on here occasionally. Any comments Legal?

Good stuff NFH.

You will also be on my list of consumer heroes. : ) Along with socketman and the women from OERML

Michael O'Connor says:
14 June 2015

Well done Which along with people power, it’s long overdue ISP’s giving out broadband speeds which they know majority of customers will never get a decent speed, i am so pleased for this ruling at last a winner for Justice and the customer.

Stewart says:
14 June 2015

A welcome move in the right direction.

How about been able to sue your provider to get all the money back for having a pathetic service, if this was possible it would certainly make a better service.

Hey on earth should one have a penalty to change provider

Why on earth should one have a penalty to change provider

Martin stern says:
14 June 2015

I couldn’t agree more.

Susie Rowles says:
15 June 2015

What really annoys me is that we pay for superfast broadband but only get .5 meg! Why don’t I pay a discounted price? I must be paying for the BT adverts.

mrs c lees says:
15 June 2015

My broadband freezers a lot and other times it cuts out altogether I am on BT and I don’t find it very fast at all .

Reg Whale says:
15 June 2015

I am just less than 1 mile from the telephone exchange, I sit with my laptop 3 feet from my router,
I have filters fitted in the ‘phone wall plug. The main plug is right behind my armchair. Yet I am only able to get a download speed of 6.4. Have told Talk Talk about this on numerous occasions, who (a)doesn’t think my D/L speed is bad (just within their range) and (b) any problem in this respect is likely to be due to something connected with my internal set-up!
I am frequently ‘invited’ to have their super fibre one for a reduced price for 6 months’.
Find it a bit frustrating..

Mazza says:
18 June 2015

I do have sympathy with you here as you are not getting the speed you were told. However, we are licky to get 0.5mbs. We all need to stick together so we all get a decent speed. Its not your fault, but people like me with such dire speeds have to laugh a little when others complain about only getting 6mbs! Please dont take this personally, its just an indication of how bad this whole issue is. Incidentally, we all pay the advertised tarrif whether we get half a meg or twenty. How can that be fair?

As I understand it if you connected by cable to your lap-top I expect you will find your speed is increased. The reason is that with wireless you are encrypting and decrypting the wireless signal which means there is an additionla overhead of signals.

Colin Greaves says:
23 June 2015

Completely agree. We get 1.5mbs if we’re lucky, frequent problems with poor connection. We are in effect subsidising the many people who get a decent speed. We live in a rural area but only about 8 miles as the crow flies to Lincoln, so not exactly remote! We don’t use a wireless connection. Absolutely disgusted about the way things are going. Our ;local County Councillor is doing her very best to ensure that some of the government money for after broadband is spent on our area but probably only people in villages not scattered dwellings like ours will benefit.

Speak to your council Colin

Perhaps in Lincolnshire this would be the answer for superfast broadband – line of sight wireless. I was associated with a small company setting it up for a locality over a decade ago so its not a new concept.


James McGrory says:
15 June 2015

I recently had a total failure of my phone – although my broadband access remained OK! TalkTalk responded that my line checked-out OK!
Assuming problem to be my own handset, I bought a new one – but the phone problem persisted!
I changed to alternative provider, who agreed (when field/installation-engineer checked) that the problem lay in local sub-station – and rectified the problem within half-hour!
It seems that (despite all techno-babble, about wireless, fibre-optic, etc) there remain fundamental faults in our local (ground-wired) infrastructure!?
This seems to be still in BT’s bailliewick – which requires fundamental upgrading!

Tim McBride says:
15 June 2015

Broadband providers should have to state a minimum speed, not just an “up to” speed. If they do not provide that speed, compensation should be paid ( similar to e.g. Electricity or water providers compensating if we are cut off)
If they continue to break the contract they have made regarding speed, we should be free to leave

Martin stern says:
15 June 2015

Yes I agree with all that you’ve said

I have no problem with a minimum speed requirement provided it is at the point of entry of the line on a regulated piece of kit.

I have seen neighbours park their router at the bottom of cupboards, with large objects in the way etc etc etc. You cannot reasonably expect that the provider should be responsible for what happens in the owners property and how they use it. The other two problems are contention ratios and sites visited which both can slow service.

Incidentally when my children visited the number of wi-fi devices they carry and use was sufficient to knock my lap-top off the network. Perhaps Which? has done an educational piece on these matters??

So bya ll means

Thanks Which for trying, but this response by Ofcom shows just what a pathetic overseer it is! The ISP’s will laugh at Ofcom’s weak slap of the wrist and carry on lying about quality of service and Broadband speeds. Companies who make false claims and fail to openly inform their clients of service restrictions Usually throttling the bandwidth at busy times) should be fined a suitable amount that acts as a deterrent. The whole Broadband/Fibre Optic/ mobile communications market is full of scams fleecing the public. Ofcom needs tougher people working to improve services for long suffering paying customers. They currently seem to employ more timid commercial negotiators.

Mr. R. Holgate says:
16 June 2015


Great news and well done your team but mind and watch the back door because they will quickly find another way to screw us. After their only God is money!

Thanks for the support wilnor – it’s really appreciated! 🙂