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New rules mean better advice on broadband speeds

Ofcom's new broadband code of practice comes into effect today, requiring providers to give better information about speeds to new customers

A new code of practice from telecoms regulator Ofcom have now come into effect, requiring broadband providers to clearly tell customers how fast their speed will be before they sign a contract.

Customers will be told what speed they will receive at peak times (8-10pm) and have the right to walk away if their speed drops below a minimum level.

The code is voluntary, but the UK’s biggest providers (BT, EE, Kcom, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media) are signed up now and it’s expected more will join.

Which? has long campaigned for faster, better and more reliable broadband, and welcomes the new requirement to make broadband deals more transparent for consumers.

Sarah Threadgould, Which? chief customer officer, said: ‘Unclear and confusing information about broadband speeds has been an issue for consumers for far too long – so we’re glad these measures are being introduced.

‘Providers should immediately adopt these changes to ensure that customers clearly understand the minimum speeds to expect when they sign up and have the right to walk away if that provider fails to deliver.

‘We will be keeping a close eye to make sure the voluntary code is working for consumers, if not, Ofcom will need to step in and take stronger action.’

See how the providers compare using our overview of the best and worst broadband providers of 2019.

The new broadband rules

The changes to the current code of practice are:

  • More realistic speed estimates at point of purchase
    Now customers will be given speeds they are likely to get at peak times (8pm-10pm). Ofcom says that taking into account the fall in speeds at this time, when the network is busiest, will give customers a more realistic speed estimate when they buy broadband.
  • Always providing a minimum guaranteed speed and a right to exit that’s connected to this speed
    When selling their service to customers, providers will be asked to make sure customers are aware of the minimum guaranteed speed available to them and their right to cancel (without a fee) if this isn’t met.
  • Strengthening customers’ rights
    Now there will be a 30-day calendar limit to how long companies have to improve the speeds before they must offer the right to cancel. This information must be stated more clearly to existing customers with a link to the minimum guaranteed speed so they know what can trigger a right to exit.
  • Extending the right to exit to bundles
    Until now a TV and broadband bundle could scupper plans to exit a poor broadband service. The changes mean that when you exit a bad broadband contract you also have the right to cancel the rest of your bundle, such as landline and TV purchased with broadband.
  • Making sure there is a level playing field
    The old code only applied to broadband services on copper and part-fibre services, but the new version means fully cabled services – such as that from Virgin Media – will be subject to the same rules. This means that all customers will be able to benefit from the codes, so all companies will be providing customers with detailed speed information as detailed above.

Are you getting the broadband speed you paid for?

When you signed up to your broadband deal, the provider should’ve given you a clear idea of what speed you could expect in your home. If you’re one of the people up and down the country experiencing issues with broadband, use our free broadband speed checker to help check whether the speed you’re getting is what you signed up for.

If you’re unhappy with your broadband speed, you can also use our broadband complaint tool to quickly make a formal complaint to your provider, or read our tips on ways you can speed up slow broadband connections.

Upgrading for better broadband

If you’re on the hunt for a speedy new deal, it’s worth considering upgrading your connection to fibre broadband. We’ve found that customers who have fibre connections are significantly more satisfied with both the speed of their broadband and the reliability of their connection. Plus, fibre doesn’t have to be pricey – last year, we found that some fibre connections can be cheaper than standard broadband.

Use Which? Switch to find the best broadband deals where you live.

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