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Market Studies

Study on Internet Services Provision market

The market for internet access and provision had the highest percentage of consumers who experienced problems, across the 50 markets surveyed in 2010. In addition, this market displayed the third lowest overall score out of the 50 markets, the third highest percentage of consumers complaining to their provider/retailer for a problem they experienced and below average scores for other market performance parameters.

This is why the European Commission carried out a study (2012) PDF on the functioning of the market for internet access and provision from a consumer perspective in the European Union. It assessed Internet Service Provision from a consumer point of view. The focus was on consumers' main internet access at home through desktop computers or laptops (including via dongles or USB keys) by Internet Services Providers (ISPs) that cover at least 85% of the consumers with internet access in each country.

A Commission Staff Working Document PDF presents the main findings of the study. It focuses on the ability of consumers to compare offers, the problems that hinder their optimal decision-making in the internet services market (for both choosing a provider and subsequently switching) and looks into solutions that could improve consumer conditions.

Click to view the top findings

  • average savings in the order of 14,7 Euro/month for those respondents who saved money by switching provider. It was estimated that in the EU consumers could save on aggregate between 7,3 and 8,6 billion Euro per year by switching from their current provider to the one offering the cheapest tariff for the same service characteristics.
  • barriers to switching identified in the form of (early) contract termination fees, difficulties in comparing offers, long contract duration and service interruption while switching However, 80% of those who switched were happy with the results
  • problems with their internet provider over the last 12 months experienced by 37% of consumers surveyed, such as:
    • 60% internet outages
    • 41% slower speed than it should be
    • 26% poor customer service
    • 23% waiting a long time to get service repaired
    • 22% reported experiencing blocking/slowing down of services

The annual detriment for EU consumers, on aggregate, was estimated between 1,4 and 3,9 billion Euro, due to internet outages and time spent solving problems.

  • when it comes to the nature of consumer complaints reported, stakeholders rated issues according to the frequency of complaints received (from 0: no complaints to 10: very many complaints). Technical issues were ranked first (average score 6.3), followed by problems about billing (5.4). Slower actual speeds than advertised was reported to be the most frequent consumer complaint.
  • respondents in EU15 are more likely to have a greater choice of ISPs, compared to those in EU12. Respondents in rural areas are likely to have access to lower speeds compared to those in metropolitan areas.
  • 37% of respondents have not compared different offers for internet access over the last 12 months. Amongst those respondents who compared, 35% found the process complicated.
  • over 33% of ISPs websites were assessed as not useful in allowing consumers to make an informed choice and also provided unclear information regarding their offers (mystery shopping).

Click to view relevant documents