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Ofcom CEO Sharon White gets tough on broadband speed

In a speech delivered to a Which? conference, Ofcom CEO Sharon White set out new rights for consumers to leave their broadband provider if speeds aren’t good enough

Ofcom’s chief executive Sharon White will impose a new code of practice on the UK’s largest internet service providers (ISPs), giving consumers the right to exit their contract without penalty should broadband speeds fall below “acceptable levels”.

In a speech delivered on 11 June 2015 to a conference hosted by consumer advocacy group Which?, White said: “When Ofcom was established, access to a reliable internet connection and mobile phone was a ‘nice to have’. Now it is essential to the functioning of the economy, to the way people work and live their lives.

“Improving delivery to consumers doesn’t just fall at the feet of the regulator. The delivery of first-class communications services is primarily the responsibility of providers.”

To this end, Ofcom has parlayed the largest ISPs in the UK – BT, EE, KC in Hull, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media – into a new code of practice. The code will allow consumers to walk away from their provider at any point in the contract – not just in the first three months, as it is at present – if speeds fall below the minimum guaranteed access speed and the provider is unable to remedy the problem.

The stricter code will also force ISPs to work more proactively to ensure that they provide accurate guidance and information to consumers during the sales process, so that customers can fairly compare and contrast the different offers on the market; to improve their contract terms and conditions and eliminate hidden charges and lock-ins; and to work on improving their complaints handling procedures.

Later tin June, new regulations will be introduced to make it easier to switch broadband providers, as long as the broadband provider is offering services over the Openreach network. Ofcom believes that moving to a gaining provider-led process, where the new provider assumes all responsibility for the switching process, will remove the incentive for the old provider to obstruct the process.

“This will make a real difference for consumers and will encourage more people to take full advantage of competition in the sector,” said White.

“Once this is in place, we will next month turn our attention to improving consumer switching between mobile networks, starting with a public consultation on a new set of proposals,” she added.

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