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Up to 75 per cent of UK households are not getting the broadband speeds promised by advertisements, according to consumer watchdog Which?. Over 15 million households are paying for packages with advertised maximum speeds they cannot achieve, the report suggests.
Ofcom has already commenced a crack down on slow speeds, making it easier for people to swap providers if they are unhappy with their service, but Which? says more needed to be done.
Tests suggest that just 17 per cent of homes were achieving the average advertised speed, with even fewer during peak evening times. The problem was particularly bad in rural areas where 98 per cent of homes were unable to get the advertised headline speed of the broadband service they had chosen.
“We want Ofcom to ensure consumers get the speeds promised by providers,” commented Which? executive director Richard Lloyd. “It is not good enough that millions of homes are so poorly served by their broadband provider with speeds that just don’t live up to what was advertised.”
Under current rules, ISPs must ensure that 10 per cent of customers can achieve a top speed before they can advertise it as the maximum. The report suggested that some packages could not even meet that low threshold.
The tests indicated that only 4 per cent of customers on TalkTalk’s 17Mbps package were getting the top advertised speed and just 1 per cent of those on BT’s 76Mbps deals could obtain that speed.
The ISPs have immediately disputed these claims.
“Our data, based on over half a million customers, which far exceeds Which’s base of a few hundred, shows that TalkTalk homes can achieve speeds beyond 17Mbps,” said a TalkTalk spokesman. “We’re compliant with the advertising guidelines and if they change, we will continue to comply. Our network is faster and more resilient than ever and we continue to work hard to further increase broadband speeds.”
Meanwhile BT said that more than 10 per cent of its super-fast broadband customers could achieve speeds of 80Mbps or above.
“We’re very clear that customers should not rely on headline claims, but instead use the personal speed quote we give them at the point of sale, which is based on their own line,” it said in a statement. “If they aren’t happy with this personalised speed they can decide not to buy from us; if they are happy with the speed, but find they don’t achieve it, we allow them to end their contracts in line with the Ofcom code of practice.”
In its report, Which? stated it wants Ofcom to work with the ASA to ensure that broadband providers advertise only speeds that are available for the majority of their customers. It also wants the watchdog to publish data annually showing what proportion of consumers receive the advertised speeds for the main broadband packages.