Improvements to Broadband Speeds Code of Practice
Mystery shopping to check compliance with Ofcom’s Voluntary Code of Practice on Broadband Speeds has revealed that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are meeting some aspects of the Code but are falling short in other areas.
The research found that the majority (85 per cent) of telephone mystery shoppers were provided with an estimate of the maximum speed available on their broadband line before signing up with a provider.
However, almost half (42 per cent) of these shoppers had to prompt providers for their speed late in the sales process.
In addition, three quarters (74 per cent) of mystery shoppers were not informed that their actual speed was likely to be below their maximum line speed.
The research also showed that shoppers often received a wide variety of different estimates of the maximum line speed from different ISPs for the same line.
Having investigated the issue further, Ofcom has found that ISPs use different methods for calculating and presenting such line speed information.
Some ISPs also often gave the estimate for the maximum line speed in the form of a wide range (such as 10-20Mbit/s) which could lead customers to expect a much higher speed than they actually receive.
Ofcom is now proposing to tighten the Code to address these issues in order to ensure that consumers are given adequate information about their broadband service when making purchasing decisions.
More consistent and accurate information
This involves working with the ISPs to ensure that they are able to give more consistent and accurate information on line speeds.
Code of Practice
The Voluntary Code of Practice on Broadband Speeds came into force in December 2008 and covers over 95 per cent of UK residential broadband customers.
ISPs who have signed up to the Code have committed to provide, among other things, information to consumers before they enter into a contract about the maximum speed they should expect on their line (known as the access line speed) and the factors that will affect their actual speeds.
Ofcom’s mystery shopping research involved both telephone and website mystery shopping where shoppers attempted to sign up to a new broadband service with different providers.
Ofcom expects to be able to agree changes to the Code by summer 2010.
If agreement cannot be reached with ISPs, Ofcom will consider whether it is necessary to introduce formal regulations.
Ofcom also plans to conduct a further round of mystery shopping research to check whether improvements in compliance have been made.
To address the shortfalls in compliance with the Code, Ofcom is going to:
- work with ISPs to agree a consistent and accurate way of calculating and presenting access line speed information and amend the Code accordingly;
- amend the Code to require ISPs to commit to giving the access line speed estimate early in the sales process, i.e. before asking the customer for bank details or a MAC. Currently the Code only requires ISPs to give this information before completion of the sales process.
- find ways of ensuring that ISPs give consumers better information on why and how actual broadband speeds may be lower than headline speeds.
- explore with ISPs whether it would be appropriate to add a new provision in Code which allows customers to leave their contract period without penalty if the access line speed received in practice is significantly below the estimate given at the time of signing up.
Ofcom Chief Executive Ed Richards said: ‘Consumers are now receiving more accurate information at the point of sale about their broadband service.
‘But our mystery shopping research reveals there is still significant further progress to be made, particularly in relation to the checkers used to calculate line speeds.
‘We will work with the internet service providers to ensure consumers receive the best quality information and amend the existing Code accordingly. We will continue to monitor and assess performance against the Code in the coming months.’
Broadband speeds research
Ofcom has recently commissioned a second round of broadband speeds research following last year’s research which provided consumers with a clear picture of the UK’s actual broadband speeds.
Ofcom is planning to publish the first findings from this round of research in July 2010, and every six months thereafter.
The research will test some of the fastest advertised broadband packages on the market today.
For simple tips on how you can improve your home broadband speed, click on the video above.
For example, installing microfilters into all your home phone sockets will allow broadband to work over the same line as your telephone service.
If they’re not installed then broadband performance may suffer.
It explains how a range of factors such as price, availability and quality of customer service need to be considered when making your choice
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