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Customers can end contract if broadband is too slow - Ofcom

Thursday, June 11th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

Customers will be able to leave their broadband provider at any time if they suffer from persistent low speeds or unresolved problems, under new measures announced today by Ofcom.

The measures, aimed at protecting and empowering consumers, will allow customers to switch broadband, mobile and landline providers more easily as part of a strengthened Code of Practice.

Ofcom CEO Sharon White (pictured) is set to tell UK providers that they must serve their customers better.

In her first speech since becoming chief executive of the telecoms regulator, Ms White will say: “When Ofcom was established, access to a reliable internet connection and mobile phone was a ‘nice to have’.

“Now it is essential to the functioning of the economy, to the way people work and live their lives.

“Improving delivery to consumers doesn’t just fall at the feet of the regulator. The delivery of first class communications services is primarily the responsibility of providers.”

While customer service levels in the industry have improved, people still find it too difficult to change provider and cancel contracts, and are frustrated with customer service, Ms White will say.

She will outline four areas of focus for the telecoms industry to improve upon.

These include better information so consumers can compare offers; easier switching; improved contract terms with no hidden charges or lock-ins; and better complaints handling.

When providers break the rules, Ofcom can investigate and take enforcement action.

The regulator yesterday announced an enforcement programme investigating the difficulties customers have when trying to exit contracts.

'Powers'

Ms White will say: “Our job is to ensure that markets work for consumers and citizens, principally by encouraging competition.

“Where markets don’t work well enough – or where competition alone isn’t enough to secure good outcomes for consumers – then we have powers to intervene.”

Ofcom is outlining three measures to help consumers.

Its strengthened Code of Practice on broadband speeds with BT, EE, KC in Hull, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media improves consumers’ right to leave their broadband contract when speeds fall below acceptable levels.

New customers signing up will be able to walk away from providers during the whole term of the contract, not just the first three months, if they suffer problems that cannot be resolved, the regulator said.

Next month, it will outline plans to make it easier for mobile customers to change provider, while the third measure will make it easier for customers to switch broadband and landline provider.

From 20 June, it will be easier to switch between landline and broadband providers who use the Openreach network – such as BT, EE, Sky and TalkTalk – with a new ‘one touch’ process putting responsibility for the switch in the hands of the company the customer is moving to.

Ms White will say: “This will make a real difference for consumers and will encourage more people to take full advantage of competition in the sector.

“Once this is in place we will next month turn our attention to improving consumer switching between mobile networks.”

She will conclude: “We have set the bar high for ourselves but also for industry. If we deliver then everyone benefits: consumers and citizens of the country and the businesses who deliver the services we regulate.”

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