From next year, households whose internet speed drops below the promised level will be able to cancel their contract penalty-free under new rules to be introduced by the telecoms regulator.
Currently, broadband customers can exit their contract if speeds fall below a minimum guaranteed level, and their provider is unable fix them. But providers have an unlimited amount of time to resolve the problem before letting you leave.
However, for services purchased from 1 March 2019, broadband providers – whether it uses cable, copper or fibre wires – will be required to give more realistic speed estimates for peak traffic times (eg, 8pm to 10pm) at the point of sale.
If a customer’s speed then drops below this level, firms will have 30 calendar days to improve performance. If they fail to do this, customers can cancel penalty free.
This right to exit a contract will also apply, for the first time, to landline and TV packages bought together with broadband. So, customers won’t be tied to a TV contract bought at the same time as their broadband, if speeds fall short of what was promised, and they decide to leave.
Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s consumer group director, says: “Broadband customers must know what they’re signing up to.
“These protections will close the gap between the broadband speeds people are sold, and what they actually receive. And to give people extra confidence, we are making it easier to walk away – without penalty – if companies fail to deliver.”
Under separate rules announced late last year, broadband providers will be banned from using “up to” line speeds in advertising and instead must describe “average” speeds. These Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rules take force from 23 May 2018.