Broadband services must be overhauled, says Ofcom

Over 500,000 households had their broadband services switched without their knowledge during the past 12 months, according to Ofcom.In a sweeping report, the telecommunications watchdog says consumers face a myriad of issues with the present broadband and landline suppliers over reliability and transparency.

The report found one in five broadband users lost their service for over a week when they swapped service providers. It also found around 130,000 households have faced problems over the past 12 months with the wrong telephone line being installed during the switch over process or when customers moved house.

Ofcom CEO, Ed Richards, said: "Smooth switching processes are essential to ensure that consumers can change providers with confidence. Many people think that the current systems are too difficult and unreliable which is why we have made it one of our priorities to tackle this problem."

Broadband services will be overhauled under the Ofcom proposals, which would see an independent third party "verify" any future switches between old and new supplier so to protect consumers from 'slamming', the term used when customers are switched without consent. Simplification of the process is needed and more accurate data and transparency from providers should be implemented, the regulator added.

Adam Scorer, Director of Policy at Consumer Focus said: "According to Ofcom's own figures households switching broadband supplier is relatively low, often a sign of weak competition in a market. Hopefully these measures will lead higher numbers of people moving to better deals.

"We strongly support the plan to move towards gaining provider led switching processes. When you switch to a new supplier, it should be responsible for making the process quick and simple - the company losing the business has few incentives to do this. When the new company handles the move it tends to bring down costs, limit disruption and encourage quick completion; all of which is good news for consumers."

A spokesman for Virgin Media said: "Essentially [these proposals] apply to DSL for the time being rather than cable so it's not a big impact on our business. Anything that helps consumers is clearly a good thing providing it's not so costly that it ends up being passed onto consumers."
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