Ofcom slams ISPs over sales pitches
By Stewart Mitchell
Posted on 15 May 2012 at 10:42
Ofcom has called on ISPs to be more open about the speeds users will receive after an undercover investigation revealed providers were failing to comply with its voluntary code of conduct.
The code of conduct asks ISPs to provide likely speeds consumers would receive during sales calls, but, according to Ofcom, many ISPs only provided the information when specifically asked by a consumer – a breach of the code.
The regulator singled out BT and TalkTalk as the worst offenders with fewer than half of “secret shoppers” given information on likely speeds until they asked for it.
“The research has highlighted particular areas where ISPs need to improve,” Ofcom said. “For example, some sales agents had to be prompted by mystery shoppers to provide speed estimates, despite the code requiring that this information should be volunteered as early as possible in the sales process."
We are working with internet providers to improve information that consumers receive when they sign up to a new service
On average six out of ten callers were volunteered information about the likely speed their line would support, but Ofcom said two of the UK's biggest providers were being less open.
“TalkTalk (47% of cases) and BT Total Broadband (48%) were significantly less likely to provide a speed estimate without prompting from the caller,” Ofcom said.
Ofcom said the two ISPs had agreed to improve information provided to potential customers and that it would continue blind-buying checks to monitor the situation.
"While consumer information about broadband speeds has improved in important areas, there is still more to be done," said Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s Consumer Group director.
By contrast to BT and TalkTalk, ISPs Karoo (76% of cases), Sky (72%) and Plusnet (67%) were the most likely to provide comprehensive speed details without being prompted.
A spokesperson for BT played down the issue, saying it already spoke about speeds during sales calls.
“We strongly support the Ofcom speed code of practice and ensure that anyone who buys BT broadband gets a personalised speed quote before they are committed to purchase," the company said in a statement.
"Ofcom has suggested we should make a minor change to mention the speed quote earlier in the sales conversation, which we are happy to do and will implement straight away.”
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