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Tesco’s broadband service is under fire today. In a new report, leading consumer magazine Which? named the company as one of the worst offenders among broadband providers for overcharging customers who call its helplines.

The fault lies with Tesco employing a premium rate 090 number. As a result, it can mean that a ten-minute call can cost up to £5, not including connection charges. This is extortionate at any time, I’m sure you’ll agree. But if the fault of which you’re complaining about which you’re complaining lies with Tesco itself, it's especially galling.

What’s possibly even less defensible, though, is Tesco’s response to the furore. A spokeswoman from the company noted that the high charges were being looked into and that action will be taken to address the situation. This expression of almost-contrition, of course, would have been much more welcome had it come before the company’s policy was exposed.

Alas, Tesco wasn’t the only offender, with a host of other ISPs named as letting down their customers with long waiting times and high charges. And among them were some junior ISPs whose USP somewhat ironically is that they offer consumers a more personal and customer-focussed experience.

Admittedly, praise is due to BT, O2 and UK Online, all of whom operate freephone customer support numbers for their broadband customers. But three out of all the UK ISPs really isn't good enough.

Top 10 Broadband would like to see standards raised across the sector. After all, it’s all very well introducing cheap deals and undercutting rivals to draw in new custom. But what good is that if you’re then forcing them elsewhere by providing poor customer service? And unfortunately, it's not just the errant ISP's reputation that suffers, but rather the nation's perception of the entire broadband sector.

Perhaps the best way to improve the situation is to incorporate customer service standards as part of the broadband providers’ code of conduct. Whatever happens, something needs to be done to repair people’s damaged faith in broadband providers. And the sooner this happens, the better for everyone.

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