Ofcom has been mystery shopping to check how well ISPs have been complying with its code of practice on broadband speeds.
The watchdog’s research found that 85% of its mystery shoppers were given an estimate of the maximum speed available on their line when signing up for broadband with a provider.
However, nearly half of those 85% had to bring up the subject of line speed themselves late in the sales process, which is a fairly poor show.
Three quarters of the shoppers were also not told that their actual line speed would almost certainly be somewhat slower than the advertised headline speed.
Ofcom also found that different ISPs would present different estimates of speed for the same line, no doubt confusing the uninitiated customer.
As a result of these findings, Ofcom is proposing to make changes to its code of practice to come into force this summer.
These alterations include making ISPs commit to giving a line speed figure early in the sales process, and agreeing a more consistent way for ISPs to calculate line speed estimates.
Furthermore, Ofcom says it will explore the possibility of adding a new element to the code, which would allow the customer to opt out of a broadband contract if the actual line speed turned out to be significantly lower than the estimate the company gave.
Ofcom Chief Executive Ed Richards said: “We will work with the Internet Service Providers to ensure consumers receive the best quality information and amend the existing code accordingly. We will continue to monitor and assess performance against the code in the coming months.”