UK communications regulator Ofcom published a code of practice on Thursday to ensure greater clarity over consumer broadband line speeds in the UK.

The watchdog said some 32 ISPs, covering over 90 per cent of UK broadband customers, have already agreed to honour the code to give consumers a clearer understanding of the speeds they can get and to ensure that they are on an appropriate broadband package.

The move comes in the wake of concerns that consumers could be misled when choosing their broadband service, by ISPs advertising headline speeds that are higher than users are likely to receive in practice.

The code requires that ISPs provide customers with an accurate estimate of the maximum speed the line can support at the point of sale, as well as giving users the opportunity to switch to lower speed package if it proves more appropriate.

All sales and promotion staff will also need a proper understanding of their products to best advise customers, and ISPs will also be required to provide consumers with information on usage limits and alert customers when they have breached them.

Ofcom said it is also undertaking the UK’s most authoritative and comprehensive broadband speed survey to identify actual broadband performance across the country and its relationship to advertised headline speeds, in order to gain a clearer picture of the issue.

The survey will use a representative sample of 2,000 residential broadband connections over a six month period. Ofcom expects to publish a market report on broadband speeds in the second half of the year.

Ed Richards, Ofcom’s chief executive, said: “Broadband is a thriving market in the UK. We want to encourage real clarity for consumers about the actual broadband speeds they can receive. This voluntary Code is a significant step in this direction.”

Ofcom said it will monitor compliance to determine if ISPs are meeting the requirements of the code. If it finds that this voluntary approach is not effective, the watchdog said it will consider introducing formal regulations.