Confidence in UK broadband providers is falling despite pledges to improve transparency over pricing and speeds, a new study has revealed.
Before Christmas, broadband providers signed up to a voluntary code of conduct drawn by up the telecommunications watchdog Ofcom. Among the provisions of the edict were that internet service providers (ISPs) are obliged to provide more accurate information over connection speeds, both in advertising and in their one-to-one dealings with customers at the point of sale.
Broadband providers were also bound to ensure that access line speed information is given prominence on their web page and provide a postcode checker for customers to find out their actual broadband connection speed.
However, a new study from ISPreview found that the code has had little impact on people’s perception of their broadband providers and that in fact trust in their provider has actually worsened among a significant number of customers.
According to the study, 44 per cent of those surveyed said that they have a lower level of trust in their ISPs than they did at this time last year. Meanwhile, just 25 per cent of respondents said they have a high level of trust in their provider, while only nine per cent said their level of trust has improved.
Tellingly, a lack of transparency was cited by many as the factor most likely to cause erosion of trust in their ISP. This was borne out by the fact that misleading advertising was seen as a bugbear by 10 per cent of the sample, while 16.5 per cent and eight per cent claimed that unexpected service charges and sudden changes to pricing respectively impacted most heavily on trust. Meanwhile, the single factor deemed most likely to impact on customers' faith in their provider was poor service performance, accounting for 39 per cent of the 526 people surveyed.
The results come as Virgin Media was last week censured by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over misleading statements made in advertising campaigns for its 50Mb fibre wire broadband service. Virgin Media's claims that the existing copper broadband network was struggling to cope with demand for services such as TV on-demand were deemed by the ASA to have been exaggerated. Meanwhile, in June the company hit the headlines when it lost a CD which contained the personal information of some 3,000 customers, potentially exposing them to fraud.
Jessica McArdle, marketing manager of Top 10 Broadband, said that the findings highlighted the need for broadband providers to improve their relationship with their customers, but stressed that more time would be required to really assess whether the pledge to improve transparency has had any real impact.
She noted: “It’s barely two months since the code was introduced, so judgement of ISPs should perhaps be reserved for a while. But until that time the study highlights that there is a lot of work to be done if the public image of the broadband sector is to improve.”