What effect will increased regulation of the broadband sector have on consumer experiences? Top 10 Broadband takes a good hard look.
UK broadband customers can expect a better standard of service and clearer pricing plans, it has been claimed, thanks to the new code of conduct now being enforced by the telecommunications watchdog.
Under the terms of the voluntary code, broadband companies are obliged to clarify the terms of their deals and provide accurate information over connection speeds. Stipulations of the code also include the requirement that consumers are given an accurate estimate of the speeds that their line can support at the point of sale and that consumers are furnished with a simple explanation of the technical factors that could affect their speeds, such as the distance of their home from the nearest exchange.
Furthermore, internet service providers are now honour-bound to advise customers on improving their connection speed and offer an alternative package if the actual speed they receive is significantly lower than what they were told when buying the package. Finally, broadband companies must also explain fair usage policies and alert customers when limits have been breached to help them avoid additional charges.
According to Ofcom, 95 per cent of the UK’s customers will be covered by the code, meaning that they can expect a superior standard of service should it be adhered to strictly by the companies. And with Ofcom strictly monitoring compliance over the next six months, the effect of the code on service standards is expected to be almost immediate.
Assessment of compliance will take the form of mystery shoppers who will report the level of service they received as well as a forthcoming speed survey which will “identify actual broadband performance across the country and its variation from advertised headline speeds and maximum line speeds”.
Unsurprisingly, the code has been unreservedly embraced by consumer groups and magazines. Not least Which? Magazine which said that praised the rules for specifically addressing issues that the magazine had found were most concerning broadband users. Ceri Stanaway, of Which?, told the Times: "In a recent survey, when we asked people what frustrated them most about their broadband service, slow or inconsistent broadband speed was their biggest bugbear." News of what could prove to herald a transformation in the service enjoyed by consumers comes after a raft of complaints about some broadband companies. These have in the main centred on advertised speeds failing to match those actually receive as well as high charges for exceeding download limits. In a bid to help the public when buying broadband, Ofcom is also publishing a guide which will detail clearly what they can reasonably expect from their provider when taking a new home broadband service.
A separate Ofcom report which is due to be unveiled next year will shown that around a quarter of broadband users claim that they do not receive the connection speed they had been promised in advertising, the regulator has announced.
Consumers who wish to check if their supplier has signed up to the rules can do so at Ofcom’s website.