MPs Call For More Accurate Broadband Speed Claims And Consumer Protections

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British Infrastructure Group (BIG), led by Conservative MP Grant Shapps says broadband advertising rules should be overhauled and mandatory refunds given

A cross-party group of 50 MPs wants the way broadband packages are advertised to businesses and consumers to be changed, claiming current practices are misleading.

The British Infrastructure Group (BIG), led by Conservative MP Grant Shapps, says current regulations, which allow ISPs to state a package can deliver speeds of ‘up to’ a theoretical maximum, were unsuitable as they allow companies to make such claims if ten percent of people can receive them.

For example, last week BT changed its entry level fibre service to ‘up to 52Mbps’. Many home connections are used for home offices and remote workers.

Broadband advertising

Speed - Olivier Le MoalThe BIG report says consumers have very few rights or protections if they are provided with a poor service and sys mandatory refunds should be offered if a contract has been mis-sold. It adds that there is no minimum level of compensation either.

“It’s a scandal that official watchdog rules allow Internet Service Providers to claim download speeds which only 1 in 10 of their customers actually receive,” Shapps told The Telegraph. “Consumers expect refunds when their trains are late or a flight is delayed, yet there is no similar compensation for lousy internet services which fail to deliver the speeds advertised.

“Given that a decent broadband connection is viewed as the fourth utility by many British families, this overcharging and under-delivery is a scandal every bit as big as PPI miss-selling and the VW Exhaust emission scandal.”

However regulator Ofcom has already introduced a voluntary code of conduct for consumers, allowing customers to exit their contracts without penalty if promised speeds are not regularly delivered. A similar code of conduct will also come into effect for businesses on 30 September, with BT, TalkTalk and Virgin Media among the signatories, covering two thirds of business connections.

New advertising rules?

Under the regulations, providers will have to provide accurate estimates of speeds before, during and after sale and promise to assist with any problems encountered during the contract.

“Ofcom is concerned about the gap between advertised broadband speeds and what people actually get,” an Ofcom spokesperson told TechWeekEurope. “We want to see simpler, clearer broadband adverts that are an accurate reflection of the speeds customers receive and we believe this is a priority for action.”

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is already proposing new rules that would require communications providers to be clear and up front about the total monthly cost of a broadband package, but it is unclear whether it has any plans to impose stricter rules on advertised speeds.

TechWeekEurope has contacted the ASA for comment on the BIG’s report.

The BIG’s previous publication called for the formal separation of BT and Openreach, but BT called the report, entitled Broadbad, as “misleading and ill-judged.”

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