Will the new UK broadband champion ensure better broadband deals?

Wednesday, 12 June, 2019

Reports in the papers suggest UK Government ministers are planning to create a new mobile and broadband ‘champion’.

This new body will look at mobile and broadband deals and service, making sure customers aren’t being ripped off.

It’ll also tackle unfair practices, represent consumers in key events and conversations like 5G, and stop loyalty penalties barring customers from acquiring better broadband policies.

The new consumer watchdog will also provide ‘direct support’ to people who want to make sure they are getting a good deal.

There isn’t much detail available yet, so we’ll have to wait and see what form the new body takes. However, these proposals do raise an interesting question.

Ofcom has been handling mobile and broadband matters for some time now. So why change the existing system of regulation?

Better deals in a connected world

Ofcom’s own research shows UK consumers aren’t always content with existing broadband and mobile contracts.

And while 83 per cent are happy with their broadband service, by definition, 17 per cent aren’t.

That’s an awful lot of unhappy people, when you consider how ubiquitous broadband has become.

Ofcom has announced various plans to control the mobile and broadband sector and champion customers’ rights.

These include money back when things go wrong, and clear information around broadband deals.

Fast broadband and mobile connectivity are key to our economy. They need particular care, just as UK broadband customers require better protection.

We pay around £1 billion every year in loyalty penalties, and a recent survey by Which? revealed significant differences in the way providers approach this thorny issue.

Meanwhile, some of the worst offenders have just put their prices up…

As broad as it’s long

For as long as it’s existed, the broadband sector has needed strong regulation.

That’s especially true because customers are often unable or unwilling to hold providers to account, struggling to understand what they were promised or even if it’s being delivered.

And although 83 per cent of customers are happy with their broadband deals, more than 70% have been with their current provider for at least three years.

That’s even though they often pay more as a direct result of being loyal. Introductory deals aimed at new subscribers are often underwritten by annual price hikes for everyone else.

Loyalty penalties are even worse if you bundle TV and broadband deals together, with some paying almost £700 extra each year.

Yes, Minister

Calls for a broadband consumer champion have been steadily increasing, but it’s likely the government’s commitment to full fibre and a digital UK has focused ministers’ attention.

The arrival of the country’s first 5G services at the end of last month will have helped sharpen ministerial minds, too.

The Government wants a digital UK, but that is threatened by the poor performance and behaviour of some broadband firms.

Digital Minister, Margot James, agrees.

She says it’s clear some mobile and broadband customers suffer unfair practices, claiming the new consumer champion will help to deliver a UK which works for everyone.

It is also clear if the UK is to compete on the world stage, broadband must be fast and reliable – and near-universal.

Otherwise, people and businesses could be left behind as the world goes digital.

If you’d like a say on the new consumer body, a public consultation is likely to be held soon, and we’ll carry news about it right here on BroadbandDeals.co.uk.

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!