MSE News

Broadband slow? You've now more rights

Person using smartphone next to broadband router.

Major broadband providers now have to give customers a minimum guaranteed speed before they sign up – and if speeds subsequently drop and cannot be fixed within one month, you'll be able to ditch your contract penalty-free.

The new rights are among those set out in the telecoms regulator Ofcom's updated code of practice, which came into effect on 1 March.

But as it's a voluntary code, they only apply to firms which have signed up to it. This includes the biggest companies such as BT, Sky and Virgin Media, but not some other big names such as the Post Office and Vodafone – so the rights won't apply to everyone. 

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What are your new rights?

Providers signed up to Ofcom's code of practice are required to offer the following to customers who took out their deal on or after Friday 1 March 2019 (those on an existing contract taken out before AREN'T covered):

  • "More realistic" speed estimates ahead of signing up. Previously, broadband firms only had to give an estimated speed range for your address before you sign up. They now have to tell you before you commit what speed you'll get at peak-times (8pm-10pm), so you'll know what to expect when more people are online and speeds slow.

  • A minimum guaranteed speed before you buy – every time. Previously, firms only had to provide a minimum guaranteed speed for any given package before you signed up if you asked them to. They now have to provide one whether you ask for it or not.
     
  • The right to walk away penalty-free if speeds are still below the guaranteed minimum after 30 days. Previously, most providers were obliged to let you exit your contract penalty-free if speeds fell below the minimum guaranteed level and they couldn't improve them – but there was no time limit on that.

    Now, if you see speeds drop below the guaranteed minimum for three consecutive days and your provider cannot fix the problem within 30 days, you can ditch your contract without being charged (and this also now applies to cable providers too). 

  • The right to quit your TV contract too if broadband's slow and you got both at the same time. Previously, slow broadband couldn't be used as a reason to escape a TV contract penalty-free. However now, if you took out your broadband and TV at the same time, and as part of a bundle from the same provider, you will now be able to walk away from the entire contract. 

BT, EE, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media have committed to the Ofcom code. Together, they serve 95% of domestic broadband customers.

Here's Ofcom's quick recap of the new rights:

New Ofcom protections for broadband customers

What does Ofcom say?

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s consumer group director, said: "When you sign a contract, you should be treated fairly and know exactly what you’re getting.

"These protections mean broadband shoppers can buy with confidence. Before they sign up, customers will be told their minimum internet speed. And if companies break that promise, they’ll have to sort it out quickly, or let the customer walk away."