Australians have had a gutful of internet service providers (ISPs) misrepresenting the speed of their networks.
Complaints about internet data speed increased by 48 per cent during the last financial year, leading the competition regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), to run a three-month consultation on how providers can better advertise broadband plans to consumers.
The result is a list of six “principles” for ISPs to adopt.
“Consumers should be provided with accurate information about typical busy period speeds that the average consumer on a broadband plan can expect to receive,” said the ACCC.
“Wholesale network speeds or theoretical speeds taken from the technical specifications should not be advertised without reference to typical business period speeds.”
The consultation period yielded more than 400 responses from network operators, ISPs, consumer advocates and consumers.
It found more than 80% of consumers are confused when it comes to comparing plans and want information presented to them in a simple, standardised format.
Descriptors such as ‘high speed’ and ‘speeds up to 100Mbps’ were so vague as to be meaningless, found the ACCC.
The ACCC said some consumers reported achieving less than half the maximum speed represented by the ISP.
The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), the body representing consumers on communications issues, said one of its recent surveys found “58% of respondents believed that you get the same speed as advertised in the plan”.
In reality, this is rarely the case.
The ACCC said consumers were consistently contacting it to report broadband speeds not living up to promised performance.
By adopting these six new principles, service providers would have “greater confidence that they would meet their obligations under Australian Consumer Law” which prohibits “conduct in trade or commerce that is misleading or deceptive, or likely to mislead or deceive”.
The ACCC said it is also considering the introduction of an independent broadband performance monitoring program.
The ACCC’s six guiding principles are as follows:
1. Consumers should be provided with accurate information about typical busy period speeds that the average consumer on a broadband plan can expect to receive
2. Wholesale network speeds or theoretical speeds taken from technical specifications should not be advertised without reference to typical busy period speeds
3. Information about the performance of promoted applications should be accurate and sufficiently prominent
4. Factors known to affect service performance should be disclosed to consumers
5. Performance information should be presented in a manner that is easily comparable by consumers, for example by adopting standard descriptive terms that can be readily understood and recognised, and
6. RSPs should have systems in place to diagnose and resolve broadband speed issues.