Broadband customers will soon be able to walk away from their contract without paying a penalty if their speed is not up to scratch.
Ofcom has unveiled tougher new rules which will allow consumers to move away from providers who do not give realistic information on download speeds.
The regulator says broadband is now considered an essential service for many households and companies but that providers are not clear enough about the service customers will actually receive.
It plans to enhance its codes of practice to ensure that customers have the right to exit a contract with no penalty if their speed falls below a minimum level which is guaranteed before the sale.
Providers would have one month to improve speeds before customers are able to walk away. At present there are no timescales for companies to improve speeds.
For the first time this would also apply to customers who have broadband bundled in with other services, such as TV and phone, and those who use cable providers, such as Virgin Media.
Ofcom is particularly concerned about the poor speeds customers relieve during peak times. These are between 8pm and 10pm for residential customers and between 12 and 2pm for businesses.
The regulator will publish its final decision on the changes to the code of practice at the start of 2018.
‘These changes are an important step’
Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom consumer group director, says: “We want broadband shoppers to know what they’re buying, and what speeds to expect.
“So we plan to close the gap between what’s advertised and what’s delivered, giving customers a fuller picture before they commit to a contract. We’re also making it easier to walk away from a contract, without penalty, when companies fail to provide the speeds they promise.”
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, says: "Many people seek our help each year because their slow and intermittent broadband service falls short of what their contract promised.
"For most people, a reliable broadband connection is a necessity - so when they don't get what they’ve paid for they should always have a quick and easy way out of their contract. These changes are an important step in giving consumers more power to hold their broadband provider to account for poor service.”