Consumers will be able to compare apples with apples on broadband plans for the first time when new guidelines for internet companies are introduced, reports Lydia Anderson.

Making it fair From March next year, improved clarity on broadband plans will mean consumers can better compare offers from different internet companies and choose the best plan to suit their data use needs.

The New Zealand Telecommunications Forum has come up with a code of practice for how information about broadband plans is disclosed to consumers, covering ultra-fast broadband services and copper-line internet products.

The code requires the forum's members - which include CallPlus, Orcon, Snap, Telecom, Vodafone and Woosh - to provide broadband plan information in "a comparable and consistent format" so consumers can better gauge which internet package best suits their needs and budget.


Why we need itThe code was devised following a request from Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams, who said it would improve the transparency for broadband products in New Zealand.

"As the ultra-fast broadband network is rolled out around the country, consumers will need a clear foundation on which to consider and compare broadband offerings," the minister says.

"It is important that consumers are provided with accurate information about competing product offerings and are able to make informed choices."

Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ) chief executive Paul Brislen says until now it has been easy for internet companies to mislead customers about the effectiveness of their data plans.

"In essence you've got a blank piece of paper and you can build any kind of service you want in telecommunications.

"The product that I buy from a provider that's listed as 'blisteringly fast' might not be faster than I buy from another provider which is described as 'quick'."

People use the net in different ways, he says - a gamer will use more data than an elderly couple checking their emails.

"But the [internet companies] are not the most forthcoming with anything they think customers might not like.

"One of the big problems we've always had is we've been told the internet is 'one size fits all' - clearly that's not the case."

Internet package prices are also so varied there is no way to gauge an accurate price range, he says.

How will it work?"When you're looking at different products in the market, you'll be able to see not only the price and how fast it goes ... and how much data comes with the plan, but you'll be able to see whether it's designed for web browsing versus downloading movies," says Brislen.

"You can buy something that's appropriate for you."

New summaries will be made available with broadband plans from March and will have information on cost, the contract term, data caps and any traffic management policies.

The new approach will make it easier for customers to assess which plan is best for them and which plan provides the best value for money.