Ofcom new code gives consumers right to cancel, but how will you know if you can?
It's good that Ofcom has finally decided to address the controversial ‘up to' broadband speed advertising issue.
As is the decision to bring in a new Code of Practice this summer with a new rule that would allow consumers to terminate a broadband contract that is ‘significantly' lower than was advertised to them. But how anyone without a degree in advanced maths is going to work out if this will apply to them is beyond us.
Ofcom told us the person's ISP will tell them if they are allowed to end their contract; we seriously doubt most customer service personnel will be able to work this out.
Ofcom has continually baulked about getting to grips with the way broadband speeds are advertised. Its raison d'être that only the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), and not it, can rule on adverts, is legally correct.
That however didn't mean that it couldn't push this matter hard, and repeatedly, to the ASA. We first called on Ofcom to push for a change in the way broadband speeds were advertised back in 2007.
This was when we launched our Crystal Clear Broadband campaign. It was probably the key aim of this campaign because so many people were not being told that they couldn't ever reach the headline speeds advertised.
Not surprisingly many people who responded to our campaign were furious with their internet service provider (ISP). Ofcom did then start monitoring broadband speeds, and introduced a voluntary Code of Practice.
But the result of failing to address advertising means that three years on, the situation remains the same. Yes broadband speeds have risen, but the average speed people get is still less than half of that advertised to them.
And although we are fully in favour of the ability to terminate a contract, Ofcom needs to give clearer guidance on how people can work this out. If they can't then depsite the changes, things will remain the same.
"Under the new Code consumers will get a speeds range based on the individual consumer's line length, and other customers of similar line lengths (e.g. 4.5 - 9Mbit/sec). The 4.5Mbit/sec would be the 20 per cent marker, then there would be a gap of 10 per cent, and then there would be the bottom 10 per cent who would be significantly below," we were told.
I admit this, with an accompanying graph proved beyond me to work out although I really did try. So I asked some of the finer brains in the office and gave them the information supplied to us by Ofcom.
To cut a long story short, they couldn't work it out either. The stats given to us just couldn't be applied to work out what would be a ‘significantly' lower speed.
As one Computeractive team member said: "The graph on the report doesn't tell you anything about the actual speed and advertised speed, it tells you average speed against distance."
So if these new rules are brought in we can only hope two things: That the ASA doesn't want to borrow Ofcom's dentures to bite back at ISPs that flout the new rules and someone can give us the formulae so we can work out how to calculate what the figures would be for the lowest 10 per cent.
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