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Ofcom Calls on UK ISPs to Improve their Broadband Speed Info and Support

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013 (11:24 am) - Score 436

Ofcom has published the outcome from their latest mystery shopping study into fixed line ISP compliance with the regulators rules concerning how broadband speeds should be sold and communicated to consumers. Suffice to say that some providers (TalkTalk and O2) have fallen short of expectations but overall the market has improved.

The regulators existing Voluntary Code of Practice on Broadband Speeds (2010) requires member ISPs (listed here) to explain to new customers the access line speed that they’re likely to achieve and to try to resolve any problems when speeds fall significantly below the estimate. If the problem cannot be resolved then customers should be able to leave their ISP without penalty (i.e. within the first 3 months of the contract).

The new research found that in 96% of telephone enquiries, mystery shoppers were provided with an estimate of broadband speed (up from 93% last year). But some ISPs still need to be prompted by the caller before they reveal this information and indeed the study reports that a speed estimate was only offered, without prompting, in 68% of calls (up from 59%).

Last year’s study (here) singled out BT Retail and TalkTalk for, among other things, failing to provide a broadband speed estimate without prompting from the caller (this occurred in 48% of calls to BT and 47% to TalkTalk). Both providers agreed to address this issue by amending their staff training and sales processes.

By comparison the new study found a significant improvement across most of the main broadband ISPs but unfortunately TalkTalk, KC and O2 still have some work to do.

ofcom_speed_estimate_without_prompting

Elsewhere only 40% of mystery shoppers were given information about factors that can affect their broadband speed (up from 34% in 2012) and just 17% were told that the actual speed may be lower than estimated (down from 19%).

Claudio Pollack, Ofcoms Consumer Group Director, said:

The results of our mystery shopping are encouraging, with the quality of information being provided to consumers at the point of sale improving overall. However, the research has identified areas where providers need to do more to improve, particularly in terms of providing speeds information spontaneously and early in the sales process. We’re already working with providers to ensure they tighten up their sales processes where we’ve identified concerns.

Aside from pledging to work with ISPs in order to improve their compliance, Ofcom has also promised to conduct further mystery shopping and will open a full review of their broadband speed code to “ensure that it best serves consumers’ needs” (this will pay particular attention to the increased take-up of newer superfast broadband packages). The regulator will also be publishing research into whether ISPs need to improve the information they provide on Traffic Management policies.

A total of 1,147 mystery shops over the phone and online were completed between 16th March and 10th May 2013 to assess compliance with Ofcom’s Voluntary Code of Practice on Broadband Speeds.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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