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Internet service providers (ISPs) must now give users a minimum guaranteed broadband speed before they sign up to a new contract, under consumer protection regulations introduced by telecoms regulator Ofcom on 1 March.
The new code of practice also allows consumers to walk away from their contract without being penalised if the speed drops below that level and the ISP has not improved its performance within a month.
The regulations were formalised 12 months ago, but on the understanding that the changes would require ISPs to adjust their customer service systems, implement new tests and retrain staff, Ofcom allowed a 12-month grace period.
They form part of Ofcom’s work to promote fairer deals and better treatment from the industry for customers buying services such as broadband, telephony and pay TV.
“When you sign a contract, you should be treated fairly and know exactly what you’re getting,” said Ofcom Consumer Group director, Lindsey Fussell.
“These protections mean broadband shoppers can buy with confidence. Before they sign up, customers will be told their minimum internet speed. If companies break that promise, they’ll have to sort it out quickly, or let the customer walk away.”
All the major ISPs, accounting for around 95% of the UK market, have signed up to the code, including BT, EE, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media. Ofcom said it would be closely monitoring compliance with the new requirements going forward.
Richard Neudegg, uSwitch
“Broadband providers have had a year to prepare for this, so now the onus is very much on them to provide more transparency and consistency in their service,” said Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at comparison service uSwitch.
Alex Tofts, broadband expert at comparison site Broadband Genie, added: “We found from our own research that the majority find broadband advertising to be dishonest and many have felt misled in the past. Broadband is a technical product and some of the jargon can confuse the average user.
“Asking ISPs to provide a minimum speed guaranteed at the point of sale should give consumers more confidence when purchasing a broadband service, and also help reduce complaints.”
Viasat’s managing director of Europe, Evan Dixon, said he hoped the new code would also provide more clarity for the industry at large over the state of UK broadband networks.
“With growing developments like high-definition gaming and streaming video services, consumers will require higher and higher broadband speeds to support these applications,” he said.
“These rules will ensure that consumers are getting the services they need and provide the clarity for what exactly will be provided to those in urban notspots or remote areas.”
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