Communication regular Ofcom has formulated a new voluntary code of conduct for business broadband providers, designed to ensure that purchasers are clear about the service they are buying and are treated fairly.
SMEs: Confused and Dissatisfied by Broadband
Mike Cherry, policy director for the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “A dependable broadband connection is now essential for almost every aspect of modern business life. Yet small business dissatisfaction with broadband providers appears to be widespread and deeply felt.”
Ofcom’s announcement of their new code of practice comes after their research revealed that
- Many businesses feel their internet is too slow, too costly, or both – particularly if they are in rural areas.
- There is what Ofcom terms a ‘speeds gap ‘ – a mismatch between the speed that business customers believe they are buying, and the speed they can actually expect.
- A fifth of SMEs aren’t satisfied with the current speed of their internet.
- Some providers are not giving personalised speed estimates to businesses before signing them up.
What Ofcom’s Code of Conduct Means
Sharon White, Chief Executive of Ofcom, said, “Ensuring consumers get the best possible communications services is Ofcom’s top priority. And that includes businesses getting the broadband speeds they need. Yet too many buy unsuitable broadband packages because of confusing or insufficient sales information, or are hampered by slow speeds after they’ve signed on the dotted line.”
Ofcom’s new code will ensure that:
- Providers will supply reliable information about the business broadband services they offer, including accurate information about expected download and upload speeds
- Business broadband customers will be able to leave their contracts without penalty if speeds fall below guaranteed minimum levels, and rely on their providers to handle their speed-related problems effectively
- Providers will supply further detailed speeds information in writing to the customer after the sale.
Mike Cherry said, “The new Code of Practice announced by Ofcom is a timely and well targeted intervention in the business broadband market. To plan effectively, firms need accurate information on what speeds they can expect, and how much this will vary. Business owners should be able easily to compare suppliers and exit a contract early if their communications provider does not deliver the speeds promised.”
Ofcom’s Voluntary Business Broadband Speeds Code of Practice comes into effect from 30 September 2016, but at present it is just that; voluntary. So far, only seven of the UK’s business broadband providers have signed up, although these seven – BT Business, Daisy Communications, KCom, TalkTalk Business, Virgin Media, XLN and Zen – collectively service around two-thirds of SMEs, and hopefully others will follow.