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Watchdog Consumer Panel demands action on slow broadband

# 19 December 2007, 20:16 by Cable Forum

A press release today from The Consumer Panel, which is the independent voice for the consumer interest in communications markets, has called upon Ofcom to produce a mandatory code of practice for internet service providers, this will force ISPs to address consumer concerns about advertised broadband connection speeds.

Colette Bowe, Chairman of the Ofcom Consumer Panel, has written to Ofcom Chief Executive Ed Richards asking the regulator to take a lead on the issue, this was followed after discussions with the UK’s six leading ISPs about why consumers often fail to get the advertised broadband speeds. Collette Bowe says:

“We would like to see Ofcom leading discussions with industry to produce an enforceable code of practice that would be mandatory for ISPs. This code would establish agreed processes to give the customer the best information during and after the sales process, and to give them flexibility to move freely to different packages that reflect the actual speeds with which their ISPs are able to provide them.”

Colette Bowe has also asked Ofcom to make information publicly available to consumers on its website:

“This information would help consumers understand the technical issues affecting their broadband speeds, and over which they have control. It would also provide quality of service information to assist in their decision over which ISP to opt for.”

The Consumer Panel says the Code of practice should include:

  • Inform consumers, during the sales process, about the theoretical maximum line speed they could expect.
  • Provide clear information upfront about the factors that can affect line speed.
  • Contact customers two weeks after installation to provide them with the actual line speed supported by their line.
  • If the actual line speed is significantly lower than the package they bought, consumers should have a penalty-free choice to move to a different package or, in certain circumstances, opt-out from their contract.

    The Consumer Panel states that they spoke with ISPs in October because of widespread customer discontent about broadband speeds and according to the panel, the “up to” speeds advertised in broadband packages are very often significantly different from the actual, lower speeds experienced by many subscribers.

    The Consumer Panel Chairman has stated that they also want the advertising of broadband speeds to be tightened up:

    “I will be requesting that Advertising Standards Authority, working with industry, considers how the range of factors affecting broadband speeds can be given much greater prominence in advertising material. We believe that clearer information in advertising of broadband speeds and the associated packages would greatly increase customer satisfaction.

    No doubt that this will be a welcome move by many broadband subscribers who pay for a premium service, but receive the complete opposite. For instance, some broadband users on the Virgin Media 20Mb service are unfortunate enough that they are no better off than those who are on the 4Mb package.

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