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Which? campaigns for minimum broadband speed guarantee

by Mark Tyson on 21 March 2014, 11:45

Tags: Ofcom

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UK consumer group Which? has started a campaign calling on broadband providers to go further in guaranteeing broadband speeds for their customers.

The group is pushing providers to supply to customers "the speed and service they pay for". A survey supporting its campaign claims that three in five customers experience issues with their broadband and nearly half of them suffer from slow download speeds, with six in ten putting up with slow internet speeds frequently.

"The internet is an essential part of modern life, yet millions of us are getting frustratingly slow speeds and having to wait days to get reconnected when things go wrong," said Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director. "It's less superfast broadband, more super slow service from companies who are expecting people to pay for speeds they may never get."

Which? also underlines that households are also suffering from poor customer service as a quarter of users reporting a loss of service had to wait two days for it to be resolved and around one in ten had no internet for a week or more. Furthermore, three in ten people never get a resolution from contacting their provider whist a quarter of those who did were unsatisfied with the length of time it took.

However, Ofcom said that measures have already been taken for those customers suffering with broadband speed problems and that it already has a voluntary code of practice on broadband speeds as a way of protecting customers. The code of practice means that the providers who have signed up must supply customers a written estimate of their broadband speed at the start of their contract and allow them to leave the contract without penalty if the speeds they receive is significantly lower than the estimate.

But as the practice of the code is only voluntary, Which? believes that providers need to go further and provide more accurate speeds customers can expect at their home address and supply this in writing rather than providing estimated speed ranges that end users may never get. It also thinks that customers should have the right to exit a contract without penalty if the speed they were promised is not achieved and for providers to fix any loss of connection ASAP with refunds for loss of service. "Broadband providers need to give customers the right information and take responsibility for resolving problems," asserted Lloyd.

The slow internet survey results might be flawed however as customers who took part in the online survey were not asked to report their modem hardware connecting speeds, or in what circumstances slow speeds were experienced. This means that slow speeds may have been reported in circumstances such as several users sharing a wireless internet connection or while large files were being downloaded on multiple devices.

HEXUS Forums :: 18 Comments

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Guaranteed speed doing what?

If people are getting poor speeds and service, perhaps they shouldn't be getting the cheapest deal they can find.
I have some sympathy with post “perhaps they shouldn't be getting the cheapest deal they can find”.
My Virgin up to 20 Mb was usually delivering >19, and now recently upgraded to 50 Mb is usually >51.
However, certainly not the cheapest; service has been good to date though.
But I certainly do recognise that this not available everywhere.
Err, wouldn't it be better if they just campaigned against firms being allowed to have such long lock-ins on the contracts?

If you live in middle of nowhere, with shoddy wiring, well there isn't much they can do about it.
We’re calling on broadband providers to give you the speed and service you pay for as we discover around three in five people experience problems with their broadband.

Our research shows that nearly half of broadband customers have suffered slow speeds, with six in ten having to put up with these sluggish speeds frequently. And there’s more – many people just aren’t getting the speeds they were promised.

We want broadband providers to give you written speed estimates at the start of your contract, and to let you exit that contract without penalty if they fail to meet those speeds. We also want them to fix any loss of connection as speedily as possible and to refund you if problems persist.
The quote above is from Which's campaign page - and I'm less than impressed. Written speed estimates? Last time I checked, BT did that - they said that on their “10mbs” service I could expect to see 3mbs on average. But since I didn't go with BT then I can't tell how accurate that estimate is/was.

Big problems I've got with speed estimates is whether they'll have legal values. So, if Joe Public gets an “estimate” from TalkTalk saying that he'd get 20mbs and he gets 15mbs, does he have cause to sue? And that's ignoring the small matter that, like the road network, what speed YOU get is dependent on so many other factors - not least of which being which website you're trying to access.
Households are also suffering from poor customer service. A quarter of people who reported a loss of service and had it resolved waited two days for this, and around one in ten had no internet for a week or more.
Erm, if you're talking about a fix that needs an engineer visit then a 48Hr response is one I'd be content with in a non-business scenario. As someone said on Hexus last year, “if you want a guaranteed SLA, then get a business broadband contract instead”. On the other hand a 5/7 days without service is definitely a cause for some reasonable compensation I'd suggest.
Err, wouldn't it be better if they just campaigned against firms being allowed to have such long lock-ins on the contracts? If you live in middle of nowhere, with shoddy wiring, well there isn't much they can do about it.
Agree totally. Actually in the context of what Which are saying I would have thought it more helpful if they campaigned to be able to walk away - with no penalty - if your sustained speeds were a good percentage less than the “headline” figure. As as example, if you're getting less than 60% of your “rated” speed then you should be allowed to cancel your contract.
Isn't this more to do with one price fit's all? Take me for instance. I pay for a “up to 20mb” service yet i can only get 6.5-6.75mb (when they decide to fix my line fault anyway). Why should i pay the same price as someone who can get the full 20mb? It's bad enough that we pay more and can't get the best deals due to not being in a big city. We were supposed to get ADSL2 3 or 4 years ago but BT binned that idea and we are just left with ADSL Max. No doubt we will also be among the last (if we ever get it) to get fibre as well.

As for customer service, Plusnet are doing my head in at the moment. We have had a ongoing fault where the speed keeps dropping off from 6.5mbps to less than 2mbps since November. We just keep going around in circles. I have had two engineer visits, both of which confirmed there was no fault my end so they refer back to Plusnet who then end up referring it back to them.