Ofcom has released figures showing that despite less than half of UK households are using superfast broadband connections, despite 94% begin eligible.
The regulator’s findings also showed that one in seven homes were paying over the odds for their broadband internet services, and they could actually find a faster service for cheaper elsewhere.
The slow uptake has been blamed on providers not making enough effort to inform their customers of their best deals, and a new campaign has been launched by Ofcom in order to educate consumers on what their options are.
The ‘Boost Your Broadband’ website aims to increase the number of people on faster internet services, and allows anyone to check the broadband coverage in their area. The site also provides information on how to find the best deals for standard, superfast, and ultrafast broadband.
Kelly Tolhurst, consumer minister, praised the new campaign: “I welcome Ofcom’s Boost Your Broadband campaign to help consumers find the best deals. Broadband is a vital service and we want to see people getting a high-quality service without paying more than they need to” also adding that “Our consumer protection regime is one of the strongest in the world, but there is always more to do to ensure people know their rights”.
Ofcom’s chief executive, Sharon White, said: “we’re concerned that many loyal broadband customers aren’t getting the best deal they could. So we’re reviewing broadband pricing practices and ensuring customers get clear, accurate information from their provider about the best deals they offer”.
Broadband suppliers will also now be obliged to inform customers if they could be on one of their better tariffs, following new regulations proposed by Ofcom. They would need to contact customers annually, or when a contract is coming to an end, to let them know if they’d be better off on a different package.
Some dispute Ofcom’s claim that it is ignorance that is holding back consumers from upgrading, Matthew Howett, founder of research firm Assembly, believes that most households don’t feel the need to switch as they are happy with their current broadband speed:
“I think fundamentally most households are generally satisfied with the speeds they are getting, and find their needs are met although, of course, this changes when you introduce larger families, multiple streams of HDTV, and online gaming”.
Howett further explained that finding a new deal can often be a frustrating process for consumers as there are so many complex and confusing aspects to take in:
“While there are many good tools to help consumers shop around for the best deal, different contract durations, introductory tariffs, and added extras make changing package or supplier a daunting prospect for some.”
The pricing structures and practices of broadband companies have also caught the attention of Ofcom. Research is being carried out into why some customers are charged more than others, as well as the value of broadband deals after initial introductory offers expire. Bills are estimated to jump by almost 20% after introductory pricing terminates.