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Ofcom wants more honest broadband advertising

Ofcom's consumer panel is (again) demanding that ISPs reduce the gap between 'theoretical' broadband speeds, and those achieved in practice. In an open letter to Ofcom - the telcoms industry watchdog - the panel said it wants regulations in place to force ISPs to make the discrepancies more obvious to punters.

Furthermore, says the consumer panel's letter to Father Christmas, if the broadband speeds achieved are nowhere near those promised, customers should be able to change ISP without penalty. And anyone who has ever changed ISPs will say 'amen' to that.

Colette Bowe, chairman of the Ofcom Consumer Panel said: "We would like to see Ofcom leading discussions with industry to produce an enforceable code of practice that would be mandatory for ISPs. This code would establish agreed processes to give the customer the best information during and after the sales process, and to give them flexibility to move freely to different packages that reflect the actual speeds with which their ISPs are able to provide them."

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In October Bowe and her merry band of Ofcom consumer panellists slapped various ISPs for being less than honest about real-world broadband speeds. Alas, as the Ofcom consumer panel is an advisory body with no real power (within a relatively toothless organisation), these actions were met with little discernible effect.

Credit where it's due though - ISPs are little beggars when it comes to upselling their mystical internet prowess and I salute the consumer panel for continuing to gnaw that particular bone. I could certainly live with never again seeing the phrase 'up to' on broadband package advertising. It's a bit like quoted printer speeds. So long as they're theoretically possible (in a laboratory) manufacturers are happy to print them. It's not strictly dishonest, but it is casually misleading in the worst sense.

The distance a property is from the telephone exchange, the quality of the line itself and, I dunno, the position of the moon in relation to Uranus can all slow down broadband speeds. But if you don't ask, ISPs won't tell you that.

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