Research by the Advertising Standards Agency and broadcast industry regulator Ofcom has revealed that most of us are confused about the actual cost of our broadband contracts.
It found that 80% of us could not work out the full cost of a given broadband package, while just a quarter could understand the price of a package after being shown a TV ad for it.
As a result, the ASA says providers will have to display up-front costs, monthly fees, contract lengths and post-discount prices in all their marketing and advertising.
The new rules come into force at the end of October… so what can you do until then if you feel you’ve been mis-sold?
If you’re not happy with the price you’re paying, raise the issue with your provider. They will be under no obligation. To change your payment structure, but may be happy to move you to a cheaper tariff (but be aware that this might be slower and/or have a data cap on it, limiting your internet usage).
So what are the rules regarding cancelling a contract? When can a company impose a penalty on leaving and when can’t they?
You should get a 14-day cooling-off period, depending on the type of contract, where you can leave with no extra charge. After that, a company does have the right to say that if you’ve signed up for something that you do have to pay a termination charge. This is often the period of time you’ve been locked into the contract for.
However, if you feel you’ve been mis-sold, or you’ve been signed up without consent, you have the right to cancel without being charged.
Things need to be cleaner and clearer for the consumer to be able to better understand these situations. In addition, if a consumer is not getting the service they expect, we believe they need to be offered the opportunity to be able to cancel their contract. For example, if you’re not getting the broadband service you believed you’d signed up to, or your mobile phone’s not working, why should you be tied into a contract that you didn’t want and that is not right for you.
Help, my broadband is too slow!
Ancient copper phone lines are throttling our home internet speeds. According to an MPs’ report, 5.7 million of us are saddled with connections so slow they could be breaking regulations. So what can you do to get a better service?
Know what speed you’re supposed to have
• Know your speed – there are plenty of free online checkers that allow you to test your broadband speed. The law says a broadband provider only has to deliver 10 per cent of advertised speeds. This means that if you’ve signed up to a 17Mb service, they’re only required to give you 1.7Mb.
• Check your service provider has signed up to Ofcom’s Code of Practice. If so, it has to give you an estimated speed of what you will ACTUALLY receive.
How to get a better connection
• Upgrade to a higher-spec package. This sounds obvious, but you’ll get faster broadband if you sign up to a faster deal. And it needn’t cost you more if you shop around.
• Find out who’s fastest in your area – ask your neighbours. If one provider is consistently faster than others, think about switching to them. Remember, though, that the speed you get depends how far you are from the telephone exchange, thanks to BT’s old-fashioned copper wire (that everyone has to deal with).
How to make the most of your connection
• Use good wire – and keep it short. Long, poor-quality leads from your socket to your router will slow you down.
• Microfilters – these split your phone line from your internet. And you must have them plugged into every phone socket you use.