New Ofcom broadband rules: speed estimates, speed guarantee and stronger right to cancel

Ofcom has announced a new 2018 voluntary Code of Practice (CoP) for broadband speeds which will provide more clarity when buying broadband, and give you further rights to exit a contract if the connection fails to deliver.

The 2015 CoP which is already followed by most of the big names says that ISPs must give an estimate of the speed you’re likely to get, and that they must try to fix broadband connections which fail to achieve the estimated rate. If they’re unable to do so you are able to leave a contract without penalty.

The new CoP strengthens consumer rights and says providers must supply more details about speed at the point of sale. To summarise the key changes:

  • More realistic speed estimates at the point of sale. Speed estimates provided to customers at point of sale should reflect the speeds that they are likely to experience at peak times.
  • Always providing a minimum guaranteed speed and the right to exit connected to this speed at the point of sale. The right to exit will now apply to bundled products, such as landline services on the same line, or pay-TV services purchased at the same time as the broadband service. A new 30-calendar day limit will apply to the time providers have to improve speeds before they must offer the right to exit to customers.
  • Strengthening customers’ rights and extending the right to exit to bundled products.
  • Ensuring all customers benefit from the codes, regardless of their broadband technology.

The full statement is available from Ofcom.

What this means is that when joining any ISP which has agreed to the new CoP you will have a clear idea of the speed your line should achieve (based on real connection speeds at peak times) and a minimum speed guaranteed by the provider. And if your provider cannot hit that minimum they have 30 days to fix it, or you get to cancel for free.

However it’s important to note that the code is voluntary. BT, TalkTalk, Virgin Media, EE, Sky, XLN, Plusnet, Daisy and KCOM have agreed in principle to the new code, so a huge number of broadband customers in the country will be covered, but those of you signing up to smaller ISPs may not benefit from the changes.

Broadband advertising will be affected too. Right now providers are permitted to use an “up to” speed in adverts, which reflects the performance of just 10% of their customers. But from 23rd May they must use an average speed based on at least 50% of subscribers.