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Consumer Panel Demands CoP For Broadband Speeds

Posted: 19th Dec, 2007 By: MarkJ
The Consumer Panel, an independent voice for consumer interests in the communications market, has called on Ofcom to produce a mandatory code of practise for how ISP's can advertise broadband 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:

"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 code of practice should include a commitment from ISPs to:

  • 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 spoke with the ISPs in October because of widespread customer discontent about broadband speeds. The “up to” speeds advertised in broadband packages are very often significantly different from the actual, lower speeds experienced by many subscribers.
The panel has also called for clearer advertising of broadband speeds and is requesting that the UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) works with the industry to improve this. Certainly something does need to happen, although doing it accurately could prove technically difficult as there are many factors that can hinder a lines performance.

It would be nice to see some firm and constructive movement on this prior to BT's mass introduction of ADSL2+ services, although Ofcom is known for dragging its feet.
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