One of the main advisers to Ofcom has written to the country's largest ISPs asking them to change their broadband selling practices.
The Ofcom Consumer Panel is concerned that customers are not getting enough information on the speed of their broadband lines. It is concerned there is a wide disparity between the speeds which customers believe they will get when they sign up and the speed they actually receive when their line is installed.
A broadband connection advertised as offering up to 8Mbps produces an actual average speed of just 2.7Mbps, according to Which?. The consumer group has found 8Mbps connections offering just 90Kbps.
Factors such as distance between the customer and their telephone exchange and the quality of the copper line affect actual broadband speeds.
The panel wrote to BT, BSkyB, Carphone Warehouse (which owns AOL and TalkTalk), Orange, Tiscali (which bought Pipex's customer base) and Virgin. It asked the ISPs to:
- Advise customers of their likely broadband speed before purchase
- Consider extending the cooling off period so customers can test the speed of their connection before signing a contract
- Consider allowing customers to exit from their contract without penalty if the speed they receive is below that which they were advised they would receive
The Ofcom Consumer Panel has no powers to compel ISPs to adhere to its requests. However, a spokesperson for the panel said that, if it deemed the response unsatisfactory, it would consider reporting the issue to Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
The ASA has, in the past, rebuked ISPs over their broadband speed claims.
The spokesperson said the panel was optimistic that changes would be made.
The panel is primarily concerned with the experiences of home users and small businesses with up to nine employees. However, it says that many larger businesses face the same problems.