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Ofcom Presses Top ISP's Over Advertised Speeds

Posted: 10th Oct, 2007 By: MarkJ
The Chairman of Ofcom's Consumer Panel (OCP), Colette Bowe, has asked the top 6 UK ISP chief executives to come up with solutions that give customers clearer information on what broadband speeds they should expect when subscribing:

In her letter, the Consumer Panel Chairman writes: “…we believe that broadband customers are not at the moment getting enough information. We are of course aware of the technical reasons for the “up to” terminology that you use. I would however like to have your views about how these technical issues might be better addressed in terms of giving clearer information to potential customers.”

Colette Bowe says that at the most basic level consumers need to be able to see what they are buying, what influences the performance of the product or services they are buying and how to do something about it if it doesn’t live up to their expectations.

The Consumer Panel has asked ISPs to consider changing their sales practices to include:

* Advising customers what their likely connection speed would be to a specific line.

* Extending the cooling off period so that customers can test out the connection speed before they sign a contract.

* Allowing customers to exit from contracts if consumers experience speeds and quality well below the advertised speeds, and whose problems persist rather than be resolved by a technical solution, to exit from the contract early and without penalty.

“We believe that broadband customers are not at the moment getting enough information,” says Colette Bowe.

It’s refreshing to see Ofcom's independent arm become a little more proactive in the long running debate over advertised broadband speeds and some of the suggestions are certainly long overdue. The real question is whether or not the UK’s major ISP’s would agree to the proposals, some of which have become accustomed to offering a sub-par service at budget level prices.

Meanwhile the issue over technical feasibility remains, many things can affect the speed of a line and some of those are outside of an ISP’s control. Not to mention that the consume definition of “well below” would no doubt differ from an ISP’s. There’s a long way to go but this is definitely a good start.

Now if I can just stop thinking of OCP as being in the Robocop universe.
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