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Come clean on ADSL speed says OFCOM consumer panel

Internet service providers (ISPs) have been asked for their views about why consumers often do not get the advertised broadband connection speeds that they think they are buying.

Colette Bowe, Chairman of the Ofcom Consumer Panel, the independent voice for the consumer and citizen interest in communications markets, has asked the top 6 UK ISP chief executives to come up with solutions that give customers clear information.

The decision to write to ISP chief executives follows increasing consumer concern about broadband speeds. The "up to" speeds advertised in broadband packages are often different from the actual, lower speeds experienced by many subscribers.

In her letter, the Consumer Panel Chairman writes: "…we believe that broadband customers are not at the moment getting enough information. We are of course aware of the technical reasons for the "up to" terminology that you use. I would however like to have your views about how these technical issues might be better addressed in terms of giving clearer information to potential customers."

Colette Bowe says that at the most basic level consumers need to be able to see what they are buying, what influences the performance of the product or services they are buying and how to do something about it if it doesn't live up to their expectations.

The Consumer Panel has asked ISPs to consider changing their sales practices to include:
· Advising customers what their likely connection speed would be to a specific line
· Extending the cooling off period so that customers can test out the connection speed before they sign a contract
. Allowing customers to exit from contracts if consumers experience speeds and quality well below the advertised speeds, and whose problems persist rather than be resolved by a technical solution, to exit from the contract early and without penalty.

"We believe that broadband customers are not at the moment getting enough information," says Colette Bowe.

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.