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Crappy broadband speeds? New Ofcom rules let you leave your ISP early

Telecoms regulator Ofcom has issued new guidelines aimed at helping users bin their broadband provider if it’s not delivering a decent speed. 

In her first speech as the new head of telecoms watchdog Ofcom, Sharon White has detailed a series of new regulations which will allow broadband subscribers who are stuck on sub-par connections to walk away from their contract without penalty. 

Until recently subscribers will have faced a large fee if they tried to quit their broadband contract ahead of time, but Ofcom has signalled that those days are no more and has issued a number of clauses which, if satisfied, will allow folk to quit their ISP and go in search of something better. 

An investigation into the way ISPs, mobile carriers and pay TV services go about the business of handling contract terminations has also been initiated and a six month period of monitoring and enforcement has been announced, during which time Ofcom will keep tabs on companies and look into their policies. 

The watchdog has stated in no uncertain terms that the days of companies wilfully obfuscating information pertaining to contracts is coming to an end. So if you’re having issues with your ISP you may soon be in a position to finally do something about it without enduring a kick in the wallet. 

When can I leave my contract?

How to switch broadband providerUntil recently, you were entitled to walk out of your contract within the first 90 days if your connection’s speed dropped below the MGALS (minimum guaranteed access line speed – basically the lowest conceivable speed on your slice of network) which is stated by your ISP. If you want to check to make sure that you are getting a satisfactory service from your ISP, you can use our broadband speed test tool to check your line speed. 

Under new regulations you will be able to quit your contract at any time – provided you’ve given your ISP “reasonable” time and access to your property to fix the problem.

How much do I currently have to pay to leave a contract early?

The real answer to this question is nestled within the terms and conditions of your broadband contract but a survey carried out by Citizens Advice found that the average penalty for leaving a broadband contract early was £190, though some suppliers have been charging fees of up to £625.

Ofcom’s new guidelines aim to address these fees which often prevent users from actively moving their supply when it’s sub-par.

Which ISPs will be subject to these new rules?

The new guidelines will pertain only to the UK’s biggest ISPs – BT, EE, KC in Hull, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media – so if you’re getting your Internet services from a wireless ISP or a smaller fibre provider like Hyperoptic, Gigaclear or CityFibre for example, you won’t be covered.

That said, you are less likely to have speed-related issues if you’re paying for a symmetrical 1Gbps service…

How else will the new guidelines affect users?

Under Ofcom’s new policies ISPs will have to offer clear and accurate information when advertising their product, so users can make informed decisions about who they choose. They’ll also have to make it easier for you to switch to a different supplier – with responsibility for the entire switch being put in the hands of the company assuming your supply.

Contracts terms will also have to be clearly written with no hidden charges or so-called lock-ins which prevent you from leaving.

Lastly, Ofcom has stated that companies must offer users easy to follow steps when it comes to making formal complaints, with clear options that will allow subscribers walk away if the ISP has failed to deal with prevalent issues.

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