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Mystery shoppers hit broadband speed bump

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ofcom_colour_logoOfcom has used a set of mystery shoppers to check compliance with its Voluntary Code of Practice on Broadband Speeds and the study has revealed that internet service providers (ISPs) are falling short in some areas.

ISPs are supposed to provide an estimate of the maximum speed available on a customer’s broadband line before they sign up. And while 85 per cent of the mystery shoppers were given an estimate, 42 per cent had to prompt to get the information late in the sales process.

In addition, three quarters of the mystery shoppers were not informed that their actual speed was likely to be below their maximum line speed.

The research also showed that shoppers often received a wide variety of different speed estimates from different ISPs for the same telephone line.

Ofcom said that was caused by the different methods used for calculating and presenting the line speed information.

Some ISPs also used a wide range when giving their speed estimates, for example 10-20Mbps – which “could lead customers to expect a much higher speed than they actually receive”.

“Ofcom is now proposing to tighten the Code to address these issues in order to ensure that consumers are given adequate information about their broadband service when making purchasing decisions,” an official statement said.

“This involves working with the ISPs to ensure that they are able to give more consistent and accurate information on line speeds.”

Ofcom said it expects to be able to agree changes to the Code by summer 2010 and if it can’t reach a voluntary agreement with ISPs it will consider introducing formal regulations.

The Voluntary Code of Practice on Broadband Speeds came into force in December 2008 and covers more than 95 per cent of UK residential broadband customers.