Ofcom warns ISPs: Tell the truth on data speeds

UK ISPs would be forced to let disgruntled customers walk away from contracts if they fail to deliver agreed data rates under new Ofcom proposals.
The regulator wants to add a clause to its current voluntary code of practice that would require ISPs to let customers leave without penalties if they consistently fail to match data speeds promised during the sales process, to clamp down on the practice of only quoting headline data rates to consumers.
Ofcom also wants ISPs to commit to mentioning data rates earlier in the sales process, after research by “mystery shoppers” found that many users had to prompt providers for the information.
Roughly half (42%) of the 85% of mystery shoppers given an estimate of the maximum data rate had to request the details late in the sales process, the research shows.
More worrying, mystery shoppers were often quoted different maximum data rates for the same access line.
 “Our mystery shopping research reveals there is still significant further progress to be made, particularly in relation to the checkers used to calculate line speeds,” chief executive Ed Richards said. “We will continue to monitor and assess performance against the code in the coming months.”
The regulator says it will consult ISPs before making changes, but will consider introducing formal regulations if changes to the current code can’t be agreed by the summer.
ISPs providing coverage to 95% of UK homes have signed up to the code since it launched in December 2008.
It carries a commitment to inform consumers about the maximum data rate available on their line, and details of what might cause the actual speed to be lower.