New UK broadband customers to get speed guarantees

New broadband customers will have to be told the minimum peak-time download speeds they can expect, and will be allowed to walk away from their contract if the supplier fails to deliver a reasonable service, under new consumer protections coming into force on Friday.

Until now, broadband providers have had unlimited time to resolve lower-than-promised download speeds. But from Friday the media regulator Ofcom‘s voluntary code of practice will give customers the right to exit a contract penalty-free if the company cannot fix poor broadband speed within a month. The same right will also apply to those buying a landline phone, broadband and TV bundled deal.

BT, EE, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media – which together serve about 95% of home broadband customers – have all signed up to the new code. In December, it emerged that a quarter of UK homes do not have fast enough broadband to cope with a typical family’s internet needs, such as downloading films and watching series on Netflix.

From Friday, broadband buyers will have to be told the likely peak-time minimum speed they should receive during the busiest periods, typically between 8pm and 10pm. There will also be a guaranteed minimum speed which will be based on what other similar houses on the same broadband service should reasonably expect.

The Ofcom consumer group director, Lindsey Fussell, said: “When you sign a contract, you should be treated fairly and know exactly what you’re getting.

“These protections mean broadband shoppers can buy with confidence. Before they sign up, customers will be told their minimum internet speed. And if companies break that promise, they’ll have to sort it out quickly, or let the customer walk away.”

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She said the new rules only apply to new contracts signed after Friday with either a new or existing provider. Virgin Media cable customers and anyone else on a full-fibre deal will be able to leave their contract if their speed falls below 50% of the promised speed.

Sarah Threadgould from consumer group Which?said unclear and confusing information about broadband speeds has been an issue for too long.

“We will be keeping a close eye to make sure the voluntary code is working for consumers. If not, Ofcom will need to step in and take stronger action,” she said.