As with any business, a broadband provider should be judged not just by the service it provides, but also the way customers and any technical or non technical issues they may have are dealt with. Some companies are worse than others but researching the reputation and indeed the customer service and complaints statistics helps to steer away from the worst performers. By voting with their feet, customers can force a business to begin to improve the way it performs in order to retain existing customers and attract new ones. Another aspect of service provision is  that which is  governed by codes of practice and guidelines. Here we discuss the regulations and guidelines that you should be aware of to check that the ISP you are considering is signed up to them.

Regulating Body

The regulating body for internet service providers is the telecoms watchdog OFCOM. There are some important  rules and guidelines relating to Internet Service Providers that the consumer should be aware of:

Migration Rules

The migration rule is there to make sure that service providers do not try to prevent people from leaving or switching to other providers. It requires the provider to supply the customer with a Migration Authorisation Code (MAC) within 5 working days of being requested to do so. The MAC must be issued regardless of any ongoing disputes and is designed to make the switching process between broadband providers easier.

Broadband Speed Code of Practice.

Although this is a voluntary code of practice that is overseen by OFCOM, it is worth asking your provider if they are signed up to it and avoiding those that are not. The code of practice requires the provider to predict what speed you are going to get before you sign up and ensure that the actual speed you get after signing is as close as possible to that predicted. This is to protect consumers from being mislead by the advertised speeds which are usually preceded by a little two word get out clause “ up to”. It is fairly obvious that speeds of “up to” any number you like can be claimed, but have no real meaning when it comes to the speed you actually get.

Advertising Standards Authority Broadband Speed Guidelines

Closely related to the broadband speed code of practice are these guidelines from the ASA which again relate to advertising of speeds that most consumers will never receive. In broad terms – at least 10% of customers must be receiving the claimed speeds and any advertising must be accompanied by a warning that the speed may fall significantly short of that for the majority of consumers

The Unlimited Broadband Rule

Relating to the amount of data transfer you have in your plan, many ISPs were claiming unlimited data transfer but on the other hand were initiating speed reductions or bandwidth throttling when a data transfer amount referenced in a fair use policy was exceeded. Providers are no longer allowed to advertise these as unlimited. Unlimited must actually mean unlimited.

These are the main rules and guidelines designed to eliminate some of the deceptive practices that were prevalent in the industry before 2010. However with some codes of practice being voluntary and others being guidelines rather than rules, vigilance and research is as important as it ever was.