Regular readers will recall that Ofcom (the UK’s telecoms market regulator) recently gave Service Providers a full year’s notice that they should think seriously about conforming to some basic business practices like sending customers accurate bills and prompt handling of complaints.
Setting out the basics was, it now seems, just a curtain-raiser for another long-overdue reminder – and this time with a hint that new rules might be introduced sooner with less time for consultative prevarications.
To further strengthen the hand of broadband customers, Ofcom is planning to:
- Improve speed information at the point of sale and in contracts, by reflecting the slower speeds people can experience at ‘peak’ times and by ensuring providers always give a minimum guaranteed speed before sale.
- Strengthen the right to exit if speeds fall below a guaranteed minimum level. Providers would have a limited time to improve speeds before they must let customers walk away penalty-free. For the first time, this right to exit would also apply to contracts that include phone and pay-TV services bought with broadband.
- Increase the number of customers who benefit from the codes, by expanding their scope to apply to all broadband technologies.
Initial reaction has been favourable – particularly in mainstream media comments on on ‘peak time’ service degradations – but some critics have maintained that the Service Providers should not get away with allowing consumers’ ‘right to exit’ but should be required to deliver the supposedly ‘guaranteed minimum’ performance level. Ofcom’s proposed changes, concern a ‘voluntary’ code of conduct – and are thus some distance short of being mandatory.
This debate serves to underscore the inherent inadequacies of some broadband technologies but, some would suggest, it also reflects recognition of further improvements in customer education.
Maybe soon, perhaps, we’ll be hearing demands for similar actions on broadband upload speeds?