Federal Network Agency publishes new measurement tool for consumers

Internet providers repeatedly promise speeds in their contracts that they then do not adhere to. With a tool from the Federal Network Agency, consumers can prove breach of contract to their providers.

Fast internet is still in short supply for many consumers.

BInternet connections should be up to 1000 megabits per second from this year on. The emphasis is on “up to”, because Internet providers repeatedly make promises in their contracts for the speed that they then fail to deliver. The Federal Network Agency has now published another tool with which consumers can prove breach of contract with their providers.

How much can consumers give on the promises made by the provider?

Consumers have long been able to determine the speed of their connection on the website www.breitbandmessage.de. The Federal Network Agency publishes the measurement results in an annual report. In the current edition, a total of 437,000 measurements were evaluated in the fixed network between October 2016 and September 2017. Result: The full promised download speed was only achieved with 12 percent. In 71.6 percent of the measurements, the download speed was at least half of the maximum transfer rate.

How can the new program help?

It is a desktop application that consumers can download from the same website. This allows you to measure manually independently of your browser, which enables better control over the measurement environment. Before the measurement, the consumers are informed of possible disruptive factors such as parallel use of the connection by other services or a connection via WLAN instead of cable.

The goal is more reliable measurement results with which consumers can confront their providers and which, in case of doubt, should also serve as evidence in court.

How do consumer advocates react?

The Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzbv) welcomes the introduction of the new program. However, the vzbv criticizes the fact that the measuring tool does not measure automatically. That doesn’t make it very user-friendly. Another sticking point: if consumers notice a reduction in performance, nothing follows from it. Consumers cannot simply reduce, change or cancel their tariff if the provider does not adhere to the contract.

When is it an underperformance?

As a spokesman for the Federal Network Agency says, there is no legally established value above which consumers can assume a breach of contract. However, the authority gives an orientation. The basis is therefore at least 20 measurements on two different days with a LAN connection.

According to this, there is a breach of contract if, in the case of fixed-line broadband connections, the download rate falls below 90 percent of the contractually agreed maximum speed at least once on two measurement days. Alternatively, the Federal Network Agency sees underperformance if the normally available speed is reached in less than 90 percent of the measurements. After all, it is also a breach of contract if the agreed minimum speed was not reached on at least two measurement days.

What can consumers do in the event of underperformance?

A spokesman for the Federal Network Agency advises consumers to speak to their provider first if they suspect underperformance. If the latter does not make any concessions, consumers can call the arbitration board of the authority free of charge, which then tries to mediate. A procedure like this lasted an average of eight weeks last year, and an agreement was reached in around half of the cases. Anyone who is dissatisfied with this can sue for damages or a reduction in the tariff under civil law.