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Broadband providers ‘failing on speed information’

Which? tested broadband companies to see if they met current guidelines designed to give potential customers clear information about speeds.

Some of the UK’s biggest broadband providers are giving customers inadequate information about speeds when they are signing up to a new deal, a study has found.

Which? tested broadband companies to see if they met current guidelines designed to give potential customers clear information about speeds ahead of Ofcom introducing an updated Code of Practice to come into effect in March next year.

Each provider received 12 calls from mystery shoppers, who gave them an address and recorded whether sales agents gave all of the information currently recommended by Ofcom without being asked for it.

Overall, providers – who should give customers estimated home speeds ‘as early as practicable’ during the sales process – gave the information less than half (47%) of the time.

Providers should also explain that speeds can be influenced by a range of factors, such as network capacity and the number of subscribers to the service.

Which? said TalkTalk advisers only gave information about estimated speeds five times out of 12, and general advice about speeds was not given in any of the 12 calls.

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Which? said TalkTalk advisers only gave information about estimated speeds five times out of 12

The company was outperformed by four providers – SSE, Utility Warehouse, Post Office and John Lewis Broadband – all who have not yet signed the code which is voluntary and self-regulated.

Vodafone finished second to bottom, with EE Broadband one place above. Both are signed up to Ofcom’s guidelines but Vodafone provided information about estimated speeds just seven times out of 12, while EE provided it during eight of the calls.

Neither provider gave advice about the factors that can influence speeds.

Having a clear idea of what speeds you can expect from a broadband deal before you sign up is your right Alex Neill, Which?

Sky’s pre-prepared statement, in which speed data is outlined to potential customers, helped to make it the best performing provider by far, the consumer group said.

It offered estimated speeds and additional advice on 21 out of 24 occasions and was followed by Zen Internet in second place and SSE in third position.

By March 2019, providers signed up to the code will be expected to provide minimum guaranteed speeds upfront, along with details about speeds people can expect at peak times.

Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services, said: “Having a clear idea of what speeds you can expect from a broadband deal before you sign up is your right, but our research shows that providers have a long way to go to meet their customers’ expectations.

“We support Ofcom’s action to strengthen the Code and providers need to play their part and implement the new rules quickly and update their advice as soon as they can so that customers have a clearer picture about what they’re getting.”

A TalkTalk spokesman said: “The Residential Broadband Speeds Code of Practice requires us to provide specific information before a sale is agreed.

“The mystery shopping calls were all terminated before this point in the sales journey and therefore based on the information provided by Which?, we are confident that we fully complied with the code.”

Ofcom said: “It’s vital broadband shoppers know what speeds to expect before they commit to a contract. So we want to see providers up their game and we’re taking direct action to make this happen.

“This includes new measures to give customers more realistic broadband speed information, and ensure people can walk away from their contract when companies fail to provide the speeds they promise.”

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