Broadband customers must be told the minimum and peak time speeds they will receive before they sign a contract under new protections coming into force on Friday.
Providers will have to let customers walk away penalty-free if they take longer than a month to meet their promised speeds under Ofcom’s voluntary code of practice.
Until now, providers have had an unlimited amount of time to resolve lower-than-promised speeds.
The right to exit a contract penalty-free will also apply for the first time to landline and TV packages bought together with broadband, meaning customers will not be locked in to a TV contract if their broadband service falls short.
As an extra protection, providers will have to give more realistic peak-time speed information at the point of sale which reflects the fact that broadband is typically not as fast during busy periods between 8pm and 10pm or 12pm to 2pm for businesses.
The protections apply whether people are switching to a new provider or changing their current package.
They cover all the major broadband firms signed up to the new code – BT, EE, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media – which together serve around 95% of home broadband customers.
Ofcom consumer group director Lindsey Fussell said: “When you sign a contract, you should be treated fairly and know exactly what you’re getting.
“These protections mean broadband shoppers can buy with confidence. Before they sign up, customers will be told their minimum internet speed. And if companies break that promise, they’ll have to sort it out quickly, or let the customer walk away.”
Ofcom’s latest data shows that just three in 20 broadband customers proactively contacted their existing provider to renegotiate their deal last year.
It also found that those with a basic, copper broadband connection have less than a one-in-five chance of being able to stream Netflix in ultra-high definition, advising that those who were to upgrade to entry-level superfast broadband would almost certainly be able to do so.
Which? chief customer officer Sarah Threadgould said: “Unclear and confusing information about broadband speeds has been an issue for consumers for far too long, so we’re glad these measures are being introduced.
“Providers should immediately adopt these changes to ensure that customers clearly understand the minimum speeds to expect when they sign up and have the right to walk away if that provider fails to deliver.
“We will be keeping a close eye to make sure the voluntary code is working for consumers. If not, Ofcom will need to step in and take stronger action.”
Digital Minister Margot James said: “Broadband customers deserve to get what they pay for and to walk away easily when they don’t.
“We’ve strengthened Ofcom’s powers in this area, and I welcome their action to ensure consumers are better protected and can have greater confidence in their broadband speeds.”