By Daniel Hunter

Broadband customers are being helped to get out of contracts if their speeds are too slow, under new rules announced by Ofcom.

Under current rules, customers often find it difficult to leave their contract without paying a penalty fee. Customers receiving less than their providers' minimum stated speed for the area had to cancel their contract within three months.

But under the new rules, if certain conditions are met, broadband customers will be able to quit the contract at any time.

They are designed to encourage internet service providers (ISPs) to invest in improving broadband speeds. The industry has faced criticism over its use of the term "up to". While customers are promised "up to" high speeds, they rarely receive them.

The new rules will affect ISPs using digital subscriber line (DSL) technology. It means BT, EE, Sky and Talk Talk are all affected, but Virgin Media which uses a cable system won't be.

The new Ofcom boss, Sharon White, is set to outline more details on the rules in her first speech since taking the post.

Consumer group Which? praised the move. Executive director Richard Lloyd said: "Unreliable broadband speeds drive consumers crazy, so we also welcome the regulator telling providers to give better information on the speeds customers will realistically achieve, and to let people leave their contracts without penalty if they don't get what is promised.

"This is an encouraging start by Sharon White at a time when there are very big challenges facing Ofcom."