BT and TalkTalk fail Ofcom broadband test

The ISPs fail to provide speed estimates for their broadband services to Ofcom’s mystery shoppers

Ofcom today revealed results from its mystery shoppers, showing two of the UK’s biggest broadband providers are failing to disclose their average broadband speeds.

The regulator’s voluntary code of practice on broadband speeds, first introduced in December 2008, requires ISPs to make customers “aware of the likely broadband speeds” they will receive. The code was made stricter in July 2011 to make ISPs reveal the range of speeds likely to be achieved “as early as practicable in the sales process.”

However, when testing the adherence to the code through mystery shoppers, BT and Talk Talk came out as the worst offenders, only offering a speed estimate in 48% and 47% of cases respectively, when unprompted by the caller.

Karoo, Sky and PlusNet achieved the highest scores, but even those ISPs only gave estimated speeds 76%, 72% and 67% of the time respectively, still leaving a large number of callers without the information.

The average number of calls which gave an estimation without prompting was 59%. Yet, even when prompted, 28% still failed to provide the range of speeds as required by the tougher code of practice.

A spokeswoman from Ofcom said there had been improvements compared to previous research by mystery shoppers, but more progress needed to be made.

“The Code has the support of all the largest broadband providers in the UK and we are confident that they are determined to make it work,” she said. “Our mystery shopping shows that consumer information on broadband speeds has improved, but there is more work to be done, and we are working closely with ISPs to address these issues.”

“We will continue to monitor broadband providers’ compliance and if necessary will consider formal regulation.”

BT told Computer Weekly it had only been asked to make a “minor change” to its sales process by mentioning the speed earlier on sales calls, but said it would implement the change “straight away.”

TalkTalk insisted to us that every customer receives an estimate of their connection before signing up for a contract, despite the findings, but claimed most applications were now done online now, where a speed checker was available as well.

Both companies agreed with Ofcom that they would give more staff training to adhere better to the code of practice.

The publication of Ofcom’s study comes the day after The Guardian revealed damning results from its broadband survey.

The figures revealed a 42% gap between the speeds ISPs were advertising and the connections customers were actually receiving. The average speed the 3,000 participants were paying for was 12Mbps, but the average achieved connection was just 7Mbps.

Sky came out as the worst offender, with a 60% discrepancy between its advertised and delivered speeds, whilst BT was the best of the bunch, despite its shortfall of 25%.  

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