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Old 10-October-2007, 17:58
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News!Net firms quizzed on speed limits

Bosses at six of the UK's top net providers are being asked to explain why consumers do not get the broadband speeds firms advertise.

The six executives are being questioned by Ofcom's Consumer Panel which acts as the regulator's customer champion.

The panel wants consumers to get more information so they are not misled about the speed they sign up for.

The panel also has proposals on what net firms should do to improve how they sell and advertise broadband.

Penalty clause

"We believe that broadband customers are not at the moment getting enough information," said Colette Bowe, chairwoman of the Ofcom Consumer Panel.

In the letter to the net firms, Ms Bowe recognised that there were good technical reasons for the gulf between advertised and actual speeds.

She asked the net firms to find ways to deal with the technical problems so consumers are more informed about the potential broadband speeds in their neighbourhood.

The panel has asked net firms to consider lengthening cooling off periods so customers can test connection speeds before they sign a contract.

It also wants them to think about letting customers terminate a contract early and without penalties if speeds are well below what is advertised.

The panel was set up in 2003 and gives the view of the consumer to Ofcom when the regulator consults on industry issues.

Its approach comes after a series of events that have highlighted the gulf between the net speeds firms claim and what consumers experience.

In mid-September, Computeractive magazine revealed a survey which showed that 62% of the 3,000 readers who carried out speed tests got less than half the top broadband speed advertised by their provider.

In response to the findings Ofcom said it was "aware" of the issue and was investigating what could be done about it.

Research by analyst firm Point Topic has shown that few people will be able to enjoy the top speeds advertised by broadband firms. It estimates that only about half the UK's population will be able to use the web at speeds of 8Mbps.

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