New right to ditch terrible broadband service

If your broadband is ropey and the company can’t cure it, you can ditch it at any time

Updated: 
Rachel Stevens Launch Virgin Media's 50MB Broadband Service - London

New rules mean you can ditch sluggish broadband without having to suffer it until the end of your contract. Ofcom has unveiled a new Code of Practice, which means that if your broadband speed falls below "acceptable levels" you will be able to leave your contract before it ends - and sign up to a provider that will rid you of endless buffering.

The new Code of Practice has already been agreed with the largest providers: BT, EE, KC in Hull, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media, who will start implementing the changes in October and must follow the rules by January next year.

Better service

Ofcom Chief Executive Sharon White said: "When Ofcom was established, access to a reliable internet connection and mobile phone was a 'nice to have'. Now it is essential to the functioning of the economy, to the way people work and live their lives."

She said the regulator couldn't force providers to improve their services and deliver better broadband. However, it could introduce new regulations to empower customers who weren't being properly served by their provider, which would force companies to improve their customer services to hang onto customers - rather than relying on tying them in with small print and red tape.

Previously customers could cancel their contract within the first thee months if speeds were unacceptable - or they would have to stick with their provider until the end of the contact. Now they can cancel at any time - if they suffer problems that cannot be solved.

More changes

White said this would be part of a package of measures that would also require providers to make it clear exactly what was on offer at the point of sale; make it easier to switch providers (by putting the switch into the hands of the company the consumer is moving to); improve contract terms; and improve the way companies handle complaints.

She said: "This will make a real difference for consumers and will encourage more people to take full advantage of competition in the sector."

Next month it would announce plans to make it easier to switch mobile phone provider too.

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