November 18, 2017

Consumers ‘in the dark’ over broadband costs

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Consumers are “in the dark” over their broadband costs, a price comparison website has said.

Six out of 10 people surveyed by Comparethemarket said they had never been told by their provider that their contract was coming to an end.

When a contract expires, computer users can shop around for a cheaper deal without the risk of any exit fees.

The survey comes as regulator Ofcom has been gathering views on ways to help people secure a better deal.

The regulator has no rules in place at present to ensure a provider alerts a customer that their contract is close to finishing. Other sectors, such as car and home insurance, see prompts sent to customers.

Peter Earl, head of energy and utilities at Comparethemarket, suggested people were “in the dark” over the conditions of their broadband packages at a time when prices were rising.

This included three-quarters of those asked in the survey only having a “fairly vague” idea or “no idea” of their broadband speed requirements.

“Whilst price is clearly viewed as the deciding factor when it comes to choosing a broadband package, our research findings suggest that many customers may not actually have a view on whether what they pay is appropriate,” he said.

Ofcom has said that switching “engagement levels could be improved by providing consumers with reminders about their contract term and prompts to consider engaging at particular points in time”.

This was within a publication earlier this year aimed at improving people’s ability to shop around. It set a deadline for the end of this week for views to be submitted, but any subsequent proposals will require consultation before customers started seeing actual changes.

In the meantime, the regulator has launched a broadband and mobile checker app – to allow householders to check speeds and performance, a review of the broadband speeds code of practice, and plans for automatic compensation for customers whose broadband connection is lost or delayed.

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