Pricewatch: Reader’s queries

Should broadband providers be able to use the phrase ‘up to’ in relation to speeds?



David Howarth asks if we can do something about contracts for broadband services and the misguiding statements that are justified by the words “up to”.

“I would like your assistance in getting the phone companies to address what appears to me to be fraudulent billing practices associated with broadband landline services. While the small print states ‘up to’ the speed you are paying for, the phone companies have set the speed well below the 4MB I am paying for,” he writes.

“When purchasing a 4MB service, would it not be reasonable to assume that the speed would come within say plus or minus 10 per cent of this speed?” he asks.

“I have had problems with my home broadband for several years and have never been able to sustain a download speed of 4MB. The majority of the time it has been between 1MB and 2.5MB. Despite repeated calls to the Vodafone service desk they have never been able to fix the problem or adjust my bill,” he continues.

“Three weeks ago my broadband performance was down to 0.02MB. I had had enough. I called the Vodafone service desk and requested a permanent fix to the problem. After running line tests, the same line tests they have used every time I call and complain for the past two years, they told me the line needed to be looked at by Eircom and this would take three to five working days. Three weeks later, and after multiple calls to the Vodafone service desk and visits from Eircom, the problem is still not fixed, but I have found out more details regarding Vodafone billing practices and line-speed allocation. There does not appear to be any link between what you pay for and what you get.”

He says Vodafone had set the speed for his service at 1MB, even though they charge him for 4MB, and when asked why they had set his speed to 1MB they stated is all the line is capable of.

“When I asked why they sold me a 4MB service when the line could only function at 1MB, Vodafone stated that the contract states ‘up to’. When asked why there was no link between what the line speed is set to and the billing process, the Vodafone service desk said I have to talk to the Vodafone billing department. The billing department wants the problem with the line to be resolved before they talk about eligibility for compensation.”

He talked to Eircom and asked what would be a reasonable expectation for broadband speed for his home, based on its location and distance to the exchange. They stated 3MB.

“Can we collectively raise our voice to have this practice of putting ‘up to’ made illegal? In the area of broadband it must be costing the consumer millions of euro. It has started to creep into other areas of advertising too, with toothpaste and dandruff manufacturing claiming up to 100 per cent dandruff free or up to 100 per cent improvement in plaque removal. ‘Up to’ is not a practical definition for consumer products and or services.”

We contacted Vodafone and were told that its use of “up to” is “in accordance with” advertising standards guidelines. A spokeswoman said our reader’s line could cope with 4MPS and Vodafone’s policy is to provide customers with the highest speed their line can support. She said the company would be “contacting Mr Howarth directly to resolve the issue”.


A reader called Gerald was involved in a single-car accident on November 27th, 2013. “The only real damage to the car was the driver’s window, which was smashed, and my arm got scarred from dragging on the road,” he writes. He stresses he was not driving at speed and the gardaí checked this and his vehicle.

“I spent five days in hospital due to the depth of the cut on my right arm,” he writes.

“Here is my problem. I did not call the fire brigade. I did call the gardaí in Boyle, Co Roscommon. I did ask for an ambulance but I did not ask for the fire brigade,” he says.

“The fire brigade arrived and the gardaí asked them to look at my arm, which was bleeding (not badly). They put a bandage on before the ambulance arrived.”

His problem is with the bill he got from the fire brigade. He is being asked to pay €833. “Now if my car was either on fire or I had to be cut out of the car, my insurance would pay €750 of the bill. I called Roscommon County Council and they asked why my insurance would not pay. I told them that it was not covered. The lady said she would look into it, but all she did was send me the bill again.

“I cannot afford this. I have a 10-month- old baby, two mortgages, had to buy a second-hand replacement car and I work during the week in Galway and drive home to see my wife and baby. I am living month to month with no hope of getting out of it.”

Charging people for call-outs associated with car accidents is increasingly common as county councils look to plug funding gaps. The AA describes theses charges as “madness” and potentially very dangerous as they may make people think twice abut calling emergency services. Councils are legally entitled to impose fees, but the fire services are not called automatically to every accident and their need is “based upon the answers to a number of standard questions asked by the emergency services operator”. All councils operate waiver systems for those unable to pay.

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