From tomorrow, 1st March 2019, a new Ofcom Broadband Speeds Code of Practice goes into effect to promote Fairness for Customers in the broadband market. The previous home broadband Code has been in force since 2015, but last year's changes to the advertising of broadband speeds have prompted a series of improvements.
The key changes to the Code are:
- More realistic speed estimates - Providers need to advertise speed estimates that are relevant, and must display an 'average speed' that at least 50% of their customers can get during peak hours, between 8pm and 10pm.
- Tell you your minimum guaranteed speeds at point of sale - Before you commit to buying, you should be told the minimum dowmload and upload speeds you can get, so you know what to expect, whether you have an actual speed problem, and if you have the right to terminate your contract.
- Improving your rights to leave your contract early - Providers will have 30 days to fix your speeds, and if they're unable to do so they must offer you the right to downgrade or to terminate your contract without penalty. This now includes customers on bundled packages, such as landline and TV services.
- These rights apply to all cutsomers regardless of the technology - Previously the rules only covered customers on standard broadband over copper landlines, or 'part-fibre' Fibre to the Cabinet products. Now they apply to 'full fibre' Fibre to the Premises/Home technologies as well, including services that use the Openreach (BT Group) telephone network and Virgin Media's cable network.
The updated Code remains voluntary, so Ofcom won't have the power to force all broadband providers to comply. However, most of the major providers have signed up, in fact Ofcom believes Code complaint providers currently serve around 95% of home broadband customers.
Many of the smaller providers haven't signed up on the basis that the implementation of the technologies needed are too impractical and costly for them to make it viable at this time. The principles of the Code have also been criticised by one small provider. It should also be noted that, although the Code applies to all sales from 1st of March onwards, Ofcom won't be testing the compliance of the rules until 2020 to give the signatories time to implement the changes.
The providers who have signed up for the new 2019 Voluntary Codes of Practice are:
- KCOM (Hull Area)
- Lothian Broadband
- Virgin Media
BT, Daisy, TalkTalk and Virgin Media have also signed up for this to cover Business customers, with KCOM and XLN sign expected to be compliant in the near future.
For more detailed information you can read Ofcom's consumer guide to the new Broadband Speeds Codes of Practice or the full Better Broadband Speeds Information: Voluntary Codes of Practice statement.