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Ofcom: Orange and BT hit bottom for ISP speed check test

New research carried out on behalf of Ofcom shows that ISPs are not always prompting new customers to do a line speed check before signing up.

Broadband speed estimates were provided in cold calls to a selection of ISPs 59 per cent of the time without prompting, i.e. without the customer prompting the ISP sales person about the speed test.

Karoo, Sky and Plusnet topped the good behaviour charts, offering unprompted speed checks 76 percent, 72 per cent and 67 per cent of the time.

When prompted, Karoo’s sales teams offered a speed test 98 per cent of the time, Sky 93 per cent of the time. Overall, Plusnet did the best, offering to provide a speed test 99 per cent of the time in total.

Ofcom: Orange and BT hit bottom for ISP speed check test

Worse offenders were sales teams for TalkTalk and BT Total Broadband (i.e. not BT Infinity). As Ofcom’s chart shows, TalkTalk teams would provide unprompted speed tests 47 per cent of the time and 48 per cent of the time when prompted, for a total of 95 per cent. BT Total Broadband teams offered tests 48 per cent of the time sans prompting and 48 per cent of the time with – 96 per cent of the time overall.

The worst offenders were the Orange and BT Infinity teams. Orange didn’t offer speed tests over the phone in 7 per cent of cases (52 per cent unprompted, 39 per cent prompted) while BT Infinity staff didn’t offer a speed test 10 per cent of the time (57 per cent unprompted, 33 per cent prompted).

Ofcom: ISPs required to provide speed info as soon as possible during sales process

Staff for Virgin Media’s National DSL product were just off of the naughty step, not offering a speed test 9 per cent of the time (57 per cent unprompted, 34 per cent prompted).

That said, things have improved considerably since 2009, when Ofcom’s last comissioned a similar survey. Overall, in 93 per cent of cases, a speed estimate was provided whether prompted or not. No ISP scored below 80 per cent.

Speaking to a Virgin Media spokesperson, Recombu Digital was told: “We’re working hard to deliver the best services around so we’re pleased to see progress in our results although there’s always room for improvement if we are to deliver a fantastic customer experience every time. It’s encouraging that DSL ISPs have significantly improved the level of transparency they’re providing consumers over the actual speeds a customer can get compared to their advertised headline speeds.”

ISPs are required to provide accurate information about expected speeds on a broadband line “as early as practicable within the sales process, and in any event before consumers are asked for a Migration Access Code (MAC) or personal financial details.” This applies regardless of whether the sales pitch takes place online, over the phone or in the high street.

In the case of ordering online, Recombu Digital has found that you can’t normally get through to the payment stage without having performed some kind of speed test. Ofcom’s report states that all but two small ISPs contacted in its survey offered an up front speed test on their websites.

Ofcom’s report mentions that BT’s staff would only provide detailed speeds test once the customer has agreed to proceed with an order. This might reflect in BT’s figures above, but it’s a process which Ofcom is looking to kick to the curb. Ofcom wants speed estimates to be as up front as possible before any other kind of sales pitch or pre-sales talk takes place. We’ve contacted BT about Ofcom’s findings and are waiting to hear back. 

This year other new guidelines came in to play that changed the way ISPs could advertise speeds and present unlimited downloads. Since then we’ve seen changes such as BT listing speeds for BT Infinity 2 as up to 76Mbps (down form the theoretical top 80Mbps available on an FTTC line) and rewordings of various unlimited usage FUPs.

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