Ofcom plans could let broadband customers walk away without paying penalty

Updated: 

Broadband customers could find it easier to walk away from a contract without penalty if the speed provided is not up to scratch under plans unveiled by the regulator.

Ofcom said the proposed moves should "strengthen the hand" of broadband customers, giving them more realistic information up front before they sign a contract.

It said there can be a mismatch between what broadband customers believe they are buying and what they actually receive.

It is proposing to enhance codes of practice which commit internet companies who have signed up to them to give customers an estimated range of speeds they are likely to receive - as well as the right to exit their contracts penalty-free if their speed falls below a minimum level.

The proposals would give providers up to one month to improve speeds before they must let customers walk away without penalty.

The right to exit would apply, for the first time, to contracts with phone or pay-TV services bought by households alongside broadband.

Ofcom said it expects to publish a final decision on the improved codes of practice early next year.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom's consumer group director, said: "We plan to close the gap between what's advertised and what's delivered, giving customers a fuller picture before they commit to a contract.

"We're also making it easier to walk away from a contract, without penalty, when companies fail to provide the speeds they promise."

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: "Many people seek our help each year because their slow and intermittent broadband service falls short of what their contract promised.

"For most people, a reliable broadband connection is a necessity - so when they don't get what they've paid for they should always have a quick and easy way out of their contract.

"These changes are an important step in giving consumers more power to hold their broadband provider to account for poor service."