Regulator plans to tighten up Code of Practice as consumers get less bang for their broadband buck
The gap between the advertised broadband speeds UK customers sign up for and what they actually get has widened according to Ofcom.
Research carried out over the last year by the regulator found that although internet service providers (ISPs) have introduced higher speed packages, in reality people are now getting less than half of what is being advertised.
In April 2009 people signed up for advertised 'up to' speeds of 7.1Mbits/sec were on average getting 4.1Mbits/sec which is 58 per cent of the advertised speed.
In May this year the average download speed according to Ofcom was 5.2Mbits/sec; just 45 per cent of the average advertised 'up to' speed of 11.5Mbits/sec.
Almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of those who are paying for an 'up to' service of 20/24Mbits/sec are getting 8Mbits/sec or lower. Only two per cent received speeds of more than 14Mbits/sec.
Ed Richards, Ofcom’s chief executive said: "The gap between the average headline speed and actual speed has increased in this period even though the actual speed has risen."
Price comparison site, Moneysupermarket said the Ofcom report showed that consumers were being “misled” and “often lured into buying high-speed connections that the UK's infrastructure simply cannot deliver”.
To try to remedy the problem the regulator has decided to tighten up its broadband Code of Practice. Introduced in December 2008, although the Code is voluntary Mr Richards said it had been “a highly important first step”.
He said Ofcom knew issues would be discovered and there would be a need to “enhance and modify” the Code of Practice.
So Ofcom will be introducing clearer point-of-sale information plus a three-month cooling-off period. This latter measure would allow customers who were getting significantly below the range estimated by their ISP could cancel their contract without penalty.
However he said because ISPs had asked for time to put the new in measures into place it be around 12 months before it came into force
On the issue of advertised speeds, however, he was didn’t rule out allowing the continuation of advertising headline speeds. He said the issue was under review but provided ISPs could prove “some” of their customers could get near the headline speeds it may continue.
However he said it was up to the Advertising Standards Authority to rule on this; although Ofcom was working with it.
He did say Ofcom wanted to see a Typical Speed Range (TSR) introduced into advertising so people would have a better understanding of what speeds they were likely to get.
But Robert Hammond, head of post and digital communications at Consumer Focus said: “If consumers pay for a Ferrari-style internet service, they should not get push-bike speeds. Broadband users should get what they pay for.”
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