BT is ‘significantly under-investing’ in Openreach, according to a Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee report.
The telecoms giant, which is also responsible for rolling out super-fast broadband across the UK, has been warned by MPs that unless the group reforms and addresses the under-investment then it should split from the Openreach network.
The Committee estimates that BT’s super-fast broadband network has suffered under-investment of potentially hundreds of millions of pounds a year, with the group also failing to improve service levels in recent years.
The report said: ‘BT Group is exploiting the position of vertical integration to make strategic decisions that favour the group's priorities and interests, at the expense of its access infrastructure business.’
MPs have also complained that the regulator, Ofcom, has been ‘slow to introduce minimum service standards with financial penalties for Openreach’, and suggested tougher penalties could be imposed for poor service to encourage BT to improve.
Our Director of Policy and Campaigns, Alex Neill, said:
‘It's clear that Ofcom must move quickly to make sure Openreach genuinely improves service for customers who have been let down for too long.
‘People now see telecoms as an essential service so Ofcom must work with the industry to raise standards, with faster, more reliable broadband and automatic compensation for consumers when things go wrong.’
We’ll be pushing for Ofcom to act swiftly and ensure that BT Openreach customers get the service they should expect and deserve.
With our latest research showing a significant increase in the use of confusing ‘up to’ speed claims, we’re calling for tighter broadband advertising rules.
Our analysis of more than 6,000 newspaper broadband ads has found that the use of ‘up to’ speed claims have steadily increased since advertising guidelines were introduced in 2012.
In 2012, just one in ten print ads included ‘up to’ speed claims. However, between April 2015 and March 2016 it rocketed to 68% of print ads. In some months it rose to as much as 80%.
Under the current rules, providers only have to demonstrate that 10% of their customers will achieve the advertised speed for it to be use in their adverts. That means many of us will struggle to get anywhere near the advertised speeds. In fact, our research in June 2015 revealed that a staggering 15.4 million households weren’t getting the advertised headline speeds.
Our Director of Policy and Campaigns Alex Neill said:
‘Millions of customers are being taken in by advertised speeds they simply cannot get. With more and more broadband adverts including 'up to’ speeds since the guidelines were introduced, it's clear a shake-up is needed.’
In support of our campaign, the Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said:
‘The way broadband speeds are advertised can be misleading and I want to see more clarity to help consumers choose between providers. UK consumers enjoy some of the best coverage and cheapest broadband prices in Europe, but it's not right for Internet service providers to advertise speeds that are only available to a minority of their customers.’
Thanks to pressure from more than 100,000 campaign supporters, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has today announced that it will research consumers’ understanding of broadband speed claims made in ads. But we want to see the rules changed. And quickly.
Alex Neill added:
‘The regulator needs to quickly introduce stricter rules that ensure providers advertise speeds that they can deliver for the majority.’
If you agree that new stricter advertising rules need to be brought in without delay, please sign our petition. And tell your friends and family to add their support too!
The Queen’s Speech today announced a plan to give you the right to automatic compensation when your broadband service goes down.
The Queen today delivered her 65th speech to parliament, where she set out the government’s legislative plans, including 20 Bills.
One of these is the Digital Economy Bill, which includes a range of wins for our Broadband Speed campaign.
First up, every UK household will have a legal right to fast broadband. A universal service obligation will guarantee a 10Mbps speed.
The Queen told MPs and peers:
‘Measures will be brought forward to create the right for every household to access high speed broadband.’
The Bill will also include a right for customers to get automatic compensation when things go wrong with their broadband. Ofcom will also be compelled to publish more data about complaints and broadband speeds.
These are all wins for our campaign, which has the backing of more than 100,000 supporters, so we’re pleased to see these changes being taken forward by the government.
Now we need to see these changes to come into force as soon as possible.
Culture minister Ed Vaizey has said that broadband speed advertising rules are a ‘complete and utter joke’.
Broadband providers are allowed to advertise ‘up to’ speeds that only 10% of their customers get, leaving the majority of customers expecting to enjoy speeds they’ll never achieve. And it’s not a small problem - two thirds of the broadband ads printed since the start of this year have included an ‘up to’ claim about speeds.
Ed Vaizey told the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee:
‘It’s ridiculous. The idea that if you can deliver to 10% of houses the broadband speeds you are advertising on a large billboard and get away with it seems to be a complete and utter joke, and I have told that to [the ASA’s] face.’
More than 110,000 people have signed our Broadband Speed Guaranteed petition. Our campaign calls on advertising watchdogs to pull the plug on confusing ads and ensure that broadband providers show speeds that the majority of their customers actually get.
Ed Vaizey added:
‘It is good to have independent regulators. But I also feel as a politician and minister in this space I want to have the opportunity to express my frustrations. I am frustrated.
‘The way broadband speeds are advertised are misleading and I’d like to see them changed. I’ve made my views clear and the ASA will be aware of my concerns.’
Our executive director Richard Lloyd commented:
‘We conducted our own research last year and found that millions of households across the UK pay for broadband speeds they never get.
‘Consumers are continuing to be misled and more needs to be done by the regulator to ensure that broadband companies are holding up their end of the bargain and providing the speeds advertised.’
If you want broadband companies to hold up their end of the bargain, sign our petition for broadband speeds you can trust.
Ofcom has reported back on its first review of the telecoms market in 10 years, announcing a number of reforms to improve your broadband and phone service.
In its report the regulator starts by advising that BT must open up its Openreach network to allow competitors to connect their own fibre networks directly into homes.
There will also be tighter standards on the performance of Openreach, with a call for the company to be more independent from BT.
Following our appeal for statutory compensation in telecoms, Ofcom said it intends to introduce automatic compensation for when things go wrong with your broadband, landline or mobile.
There were also announcements on providers improving coverage, as well as calls for providers to give clearer information on the price and quality of the services you’re getting.
Sharon White, the chief exec of Ofcom, said:
‘Today we’ve announced fundamental reform of the telecoms market - more competition, a new structure for Openreach, tougher performance targets, and a range of measures to boost service quality.
‘Together, this means a better deal for telecoms users, which will improve the services and networks that underpin how we live and work.’
Our executive director Richard Lloyd said:
‘People now see telecoms as essential services, so we welcome proposals to raise standards across the industry, with faster, more reliable broadband and automatic compensation for consumers when things go wrong.’
We’ll be holding Ofcom to account on your behalf to make sure your expectations are understood and included in these proposals.
Richard Lloyd added:
‘Ofcom must move quickly with these reforms and ensure that Openreach genuinely improves the service for customers who have been let down for too long.’
What do you think about Ofcom’s proposals announced today?
We're calling for you to be properly compensated when things go wrong with your broadband or other telecoms services.
People now view telecoms as an essential service, with our research finding people are twice as likely to cut spending on groceries than on their broadband. And yet, there are no statutory or minimum compensation standards for poor service in the telecoms sector.
The compensation schemes that do exist in telecoms are unclear and inadequate, with the schemes for other utilities being more transparent.
If you have a problem with your water, gas or electricity, you're entitled to statutory compensation. For example, if your electricity supply is cut off for over 12 hours, you could receive a payment of £75. But there's no such scheme if your broadband goes down.
So we want to see the introduction of a statutory scheme in telecoms that automatically offers compensation when things go wrong.
Our executive director Richard Lloyd said:
'We want to see compensation for telecoms failures brought in line with other utilities and consumers’ expectations. Compensation should be simple, easy and fair for consumers.'
Ahead of the results of Ofcom's first review of the communications sector in 10 years, we think this is an opportunity for other changes to be introduced, including:
- Improved Openreach performance: Openreach must be more responsive to consumers rather than just meet minimum standards
- Clearer pricing and information: An obligation on telecoms providers to demonstrate that consumers find their pricing and details of their services clear and fair
Richard Lloyd added:
'In the forthcoming Digital Communications Review Ofcom has a real opportunity to ensure the telecoms sector works better for consumers.'
Today the Government announced plans to put access to broadband on a similar footing to other basic services, like water and electricity.
The plans would give you the legal right to request a connection to broadband with speeds of 10Mbps no matter where you live.
David Cameron said:
'Access to the internet shouldn't be a luxury; it should be a right - absolutely fundamental to life in 21st century Britain. That is why I'm announcing a giant leap in my digital mission for Britain.'
Our executive director Richard Lloyd said:
'Broadband is now essential to consumers' everyday lives so it's good to see the Prime Minister setting more ambitious plans for people to get faster broadband speeds no matter where they live.'
The Government also promised to make sure that you have more information about the service you're getting and can expect.
Richard Lloyd added:
'Our research found that millions of households pay for broadband speeds they never get. Giving consumers better information will help them to take action if they don't get the service they are paying for.'
Today the European Commission revealed that broadband users across Europe are only getting 75% of the speeds advertised.
And the UK is the worst in Europe for delivering the broadband speeds advertised by ADSL providers. Unlike Slovakia, Poland and Portugal who deliver over 80% of the advertised speeds to consumers, the UK only delivers 45% of the advertised speed during peak periods.
We think UK consumers should be receiving the broadband speeds they're paying for, that's why we're calling on the advertising watchdogs to review guidelines on broadband ads to require:
- All adverts making speed claims like 'superfast' to quantify these claims
- Advertised speeds to be available to the majority of customers
- Broadband providers to be upfront about how many people can actually get the speed advertised
If you agree, please sign our broadband petition.
Over the last few months we've collected over 9,000 letters from you calling on the advertising watchdogs to change their guidelines on advertised broadband speeds.
We’ve now passed these on to the Advertising Standards Authority and the Committees of Advertising Practice.
This action came after we revealed a staggering 15.4 million households weren’t getting the promised 'up to' headline speeds on their broadband speed. Most broadband providers, however, were acting in line with the advertising guidelines, where only 10% of customers need to achieve the 'up to' speeds.
We want advertising watchdogs to review guidelines on broadband ads to require:
- All adverts making speed claims like 'superfast' to quantify these claims
- Advertised speeds to be available to the majority of customers and broadband providers to be upfront about how many people can actually get the speed advertised
Thank you for taking action. Together we sent a strong message to the advertising watchdogs.
Internet Service Providers Virgin Media and SSE have lent their support to our campaign against broadband ads that promise speeds that most customers will never see.
Said Tom Mockridge, Virgin Media Chief Executive Officer:
'It’s time to raise the bar: customers who sign up for superfast broadband shouldn’t be stuck in the slow lane.
'Outdated advertising rules allowing providers to claim superfast speeds only available to 10 per cent of customers need to change. Advertised speeds should be available to the many not the few.'
Steve Heald, Head of Retail Telecoms at SSE said:
'We think customers should be able to make fully informed choices. That is why we offer all customers a personal speed estimate before they sign up for our broadband. As a smaller player in the market we are building our business based on being straightforward with customers while offering great deals and excellent service.
'We support changes to the rules to make broadband advertising more transparent. Customers have the right to know what speed they can expect to receive and we are actively looking at how we can improve our customer communications to improve this even further.'
A staggering 15.4 million households aren’t getting the promised ‘up to’ headline speeds on their broadband packages. Join us in asking the advertising watchdogs to pull the plug on confusing broadband ads.
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd, said:
'It’s not good enough that millions of homes are so poorly served by their broadband provider with speeds that just don’t live up to what was advertised. Broadband is an essential part of life these days so people shouldn’t be persuaded to buy a package which is never going to live up to expectations.’
Despite nine in 10 people telling us they consider speed an important factor when choosing a provider, our research found that 74% of households with fixed broadband connections were paying for packages with advertised speeds they never got.
Average speeds fared even worse. We found just 17% of homes received an average speed that matched the advertised level and even fewer, 15%, managed this during the peak evening period.
Advertising guidelines say only 10% of customers need to achieve the maximum advertised speed, but we found three packages that couldn’t even meet that. Only 4% of customers on TalkTalk’s 17Mbps package, and just 1% of people on BT and Plusnet’s 76Mbps deals, were getting the top advertised speeds.
It's good news that it's going to get easier to switch broadband provider if you don't get the speed you were promised. But we want the rules to change so providers are only allowed to advertise speeds that most of their customers can receive.
Up until now, the advertising watchdogs have been reluctant to take action, so we’re calling on Ofcom to work with them to create an action plan by the end of the year to improve the way broadband speeds are advertised. Tell the advertising watchdogs what you think.
With customer voices, alongside Ofcom, we are more likely to ensure people get the speeds they are promised by providers.
Ofcom chief executive Sharon White today issued a challenge to the industry to improve service, announcing new measures to make sure that communications providers put customers first.
The measures were announced following an event at the Which? offices this morning.
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd said:
'Which? warmly welcomes the very clear commitment made by the new chief executive of Ofcom to putting the interests of consumers at the centre of everything the regulator does.'
Ms White outlined four areas where the industry needs to improve:
· Better information in advertising and promotion
· Easier switching
· Clear and fair contract terms with no hidden charges or lock-ins
· Better complaints handling
Ofcom has revised its Code of Practice on broadband speeds, which will improve customers' right to leave their broadband contract without penalty if speeds are poor. This was one of our central campaign asks, along with requiring ISPs to give customers written speed estimates at the start of their contract - another area that has been beefed up in the new code.
Richard Lloyd said:
'We've called for moves to make it easier to switch telecoms provider, so we're pleased to see Ofcom's response and look forward to swift action to tackle this and other problems facing consumers and competition in the communications market.
'Unreliable broadband speeds drive consumers crazy, so we also welcome the regulator telling providers to give better information on the speeds customers will realistically achieve, and to let people leave their contracts without penalty if they don’t get what is promised.'
Thanks to everyone who has supported our Give us Broadband speed guaranteed campaign. Over 70,000 people have signed our petition so far.
Join the conversation: how do you think these changes will affect you?
The latest Which? broadband satisfaction survey reveals that the biggest broadband providers are letting their customers down.
BT, Sky and TalkTalk came bottom of the pile in our broadband satisfaction survey, with smaller providers topping the table.
Our executive director Richard Lloyd comments:
‘Smaller suppliers are leaving larger rivals in their wake when it comes to the service they provide so we need to see the big players up their game. Ofcom is also currently reviewing this market and we now need it to identify how it plans to ensure broadband customers get a better deal.’
What’s most intriguing is that, apart from Virgin Media and Zen Internet, all of the providers were given a score of three stars or less for broadband speed. This ups the ante for our Broadband Speed Guaranteed campaign. Not only are we campaigning for providers to improve their service, we want customers to get the speeds they’re promised when they sign up.
At the moment broadband providers are allowed to advertise speeds that only 10% of their customers actually get. That’s why we’re reiterating our call to the advertising watchdogs, The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and The Broadcasting Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP), to tighten the rules so that advertised broadband speeds more closely match customers' real experiences.
Richard Lloyd adds:
‘We’ve told the advertising watchdogs that companies need to be much clearer with their customers about the speeds they can expect. However, three months on, we’re still waiting for them to announce how they’ll ensure adverts only show the speeds most customers actually receive.’
Increase the pressure on the advertising watchdogs by signing our petition alongside more than 50,000 others.
Ofcom has announced an overarching review of the UK’s digital communication markets to ensure they’re meeting the needs of consumers.
The review will cover the broadband, mobile and landline markets – essential services with low levels of consumer trust and satisfaction.
With three quarters of people on the wrong mobile contract and nearly half unhappy with their broadband speed, it’s the right time for change.
Our executive director, Richard Lloyd, comments:
‘The telecoms market is changing rapidly so it’s right for Ofcom to review whether it’s working for consumers, especially at a time when high profile mergers could result in less competition.’
More than 50,000 of you have joined our call to make sure advertised broadband speeds more closely match the actual experience of customers. Your actions have helped show Ofcom that it’s time to review this essential market. The regulator must now set out how it will deliver a better deal for consumers.
Virgin Media has come out in support of our campaign to end confusing advertising of broadband speeds.
Joe Lathan, director of broadband at Virgin Media, said:
'We welcome Which? joining our long-standing call for greater transparency. We know how important broadband is to people, which is why we continue to boost speeds for our customers and regularly deliver speeds even faster than we advertise.'
Today we’re calling on advertising watchdogs to tighten up guidelines on speed claims in broadband ads.
Did you know that speeds quoted in broadband ads only need to apply to 10% of customers? No? You're not alone - nine in ten people aren't aware of this rule.
People told us that speed is the second most important factor when choosing a broadband deal (88%), beaten only by price at 94%. With speed playing such a big role in convincing people which deal to go with, we don’t think it's right for providers to entice customers in with speed claims most of them may never receive.
In fact, we found that a quarter of people would choose a different deal if they had better information on speeds. Speed becomes around three times more important to people choosing a broadband package when the speed is based on what 90% of customers would get, rather than just 10%.
Our executive director Richard Lloyd said:
'Internet connection is now an essential part of modern life so it beggars belief that providers can sell people short by advertising speeds that only 10% of customers could receive.'
We want the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcasting Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) to pull the plug on confusing broadband ads. Vague claims like 'superfast' need to be quantified, and providers should show the speeds the majority of customers will actually get.
Richard Lloyd adds:
'In the meantime, companies need to be more up-front with customers about the speeds they can expect.'
So if you've had it 'up to' here with confusing speed claims, sign our petition to help us convince advertising watchdogs to give us broadband ads we can trust.
The ASA argued that the ‘availability checker’ on BT’s website, which gives you an estimate of the speeds you can expect at your address, amounts to a significant persuasive factor in a prospective customer deciding whether they’ll opt for BT broadband. Only, in the case of the person complaining, they couldn’t achieve the speeds they were quoted at their address. BT’s advertising on its website was therefore deemed misleading in the eyes of the ASA.
As a result, the ASA has told BT that its availability checker must provide accurate information.
This is an interesting development for our Broadband Speed Guaranteed campaign.
We’re calling on providers to give accurate and personalised speed estimates at the point in writing before you sign up. If you can’t regularly achieve speeds within this estimated range, you should be let out of your contract penalty-free.
If you want your broadband speed and service to be guaranteed, sign our petition.
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.
Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said: '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.'
He added: 'It’s less superfast broadband, more super slow service from companies who are expecting people to pay for speeds they may never get
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.
Three in 10 people who contacted their provider with a problem didn’t get a resolution. And, for those that did, a quarter weren’t satisfied with how long it took.
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.
So if you’re plagued by unreliable and slow internet, sign our petition to make your broadband provider deliver the speed and service you deserve.
If, like us, you've had it 'up to' here with confusing speed claims, sign our petition. Together we can convince advertising watchdogs to give us broadband ads we can trust.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone – nine in ten people aren’t aware of this rule. We don’t think it’s right for providers to entice customers in with speed claims most of them may never receive.
That’s why we’re calling on the advertising watchdogs to pull the plug on confusing broadband ads. Vague claims like ‘superfast’ need to be quantified, and providers should show the speeds the majority of customers will actually get.
Which? campaigns to make people's lives simpler and fairer. Get involved in our latest campaigns and find out how to take action. Let's make change happen.