Increasing transparency of businesses broadband speeds – Ofcom’s voluntary Code of Practice for ISPs comes into force

Increasing transparency of businesses broadband speeds – Ofcom’s voluntary Code of Practice for ISPs comes into force

Under the new voluntary Ofcom Code, Internet Service Providers commit to give businesses “clearer, more accurate and transparent information on broadband speeds before they sign up to a contract”. If the promised upload and download speeds fall below the guaranteed levels, businesses will be able to leave their contract with no penalties. The Code was launched earlier this year but comes into force today.

In June 2015, Ofcom launched an action plan for improving broadband services that are available to UK small and medium businesses. In a study commissioned by Ofcom in 2014, SMEs were generally found to be uncertain about tariffs and offers of broadband contracts, partly because of the complexity of the communication services they require and a lack of in-house expertise. 20% of SMEs were found to be dissatisfied with their fixed-line connection speeds, a figure which has now decreased as according to a recent survey, an average of 77% of UK businesses are satisfied with their broadband speed, reliability and value for money.

To help address remaining SMEs’ concerns, Ofcom took steps to improve the accessibility of small businesses communications services by expanding their business portal (providing practical to businesses) and continuing to monitor switching behaviours by SMEs. As part of this action plan, Ofcom developed with industry over the past few months a Businesses Broadband Speed Code of Practice similar to the voluntary Broadband Speeds Code covering residential contracts.

Matthew Evans, CEO of the BSG, said “This is another demonstration of the commitment of ISPs to provide clear and accurate information to their customers, whether they are businesses or residential consumers. We are all working hard to better understand the connectivity requirements of smaller businesses in order to ensure that all UK companies can take advantage of the benefits of increased digital adoption”.

The new voluntary Business Code of Practice was launched on 26 January 2016 and commit signatories to:

  • provide businesses with an accurate estimate of their expected upload and download speeds when signing up
  • manage their business customers’ speed-related problems effectively, and offer them the right to exit their contract without penalty if speeds fall below the minimum guaranteed level;
  • give additional relevant speeds information at the point of sale (for example, how the provider manages internet traffic on its network, and how this might affect a customer’s speed);
  • provide further detailed speeds information in writing to the customer after the sale.

Current signatories include seven of the UK’s specialist broadband providers for businesses: BT Business, Daisy Communications, KCOM, TalkTalk Business, Virgin Media, XLN and Zen. Together, they provide a service to around two third of SMEs who have standard broadband.

The BSG published a study into small businesses’ connectivity requirements last year building on previous primary research.

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