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Toothless Ofcom: C'mon consumers, show your teeth on broadband speeds

Maybe our 'beefed up' code of practice will sort things

Consumers experiencing consistently shonky broadband speeds will have the power to walk away from their contracts, new Ofcom chief exec Sharon White will announce today.

The body will publish a "beefed-up" Code of Practice on broadband speeds, White will announce in her inaugural speech to consumer body Which?

White joined Ofcom in March from her role as second permanent secretary at the Treasury.

"The speeds code has been around since 2008 and, like the sector, it has to move on," she said, adding that the "new version of the Code gives consumers the opportunity to walk away from contracts when speeds fall below acceptable levels, giving real power to the elbow of consumers".

A new consumer switching regime will also begin from 20 June. "From this date, changing landline and broadband between providers who use the Openreach network – such as BT, Sky, TalkTalk and EE – will become a lot smoother," she said.

White views the body as a "light touch regulator" intervening only when there is not a better alternative.

Nodding to the mega deal between BT and EE she will say big mergers in the sector "could affect the functioning of the market for consumers".

"These are not in Ofcom’s jurisdiction and, as we are supporting the [Competition Markets Authority] with technical advice, it would not be right to set out our position on individual cases."

"But my general observation is that competition has been good for investment and for consumers," she added.

According to White, customers in the UK benefit from one of the world’s most competitive mobile markets, paying as little as £7 for a monthly service, which is "among the cheapest in Europe".

This year the body will publish its Digital Communications Review, its first major review of the industry in ten years.

White is also calling for improved contract terms with no hidden charges or lock-ins, and better complaints handling. ®

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