Broadband – Snog, Marry, Avoid?

How important is a reliable Internet service to you?  Only proposing marriage to someone when you had seen how they reacted to a slow or unreliable Internet connection might be taking things a bit far.  Nevertheless a poor service can cost you time and money and the chances of receiving compensation are not good.

Research by Citizens Advice has found that only 15% of consumers who complained to their telecoms providers received any kind of financial compensation. Twice as many consumers who had complained about other essential regulated services – such as energy and water – have received compensation.

There is good news and not so good news however.  In March 2017, the industry regulator, Ofcom began consulting on automatically compensating consumers for quality of service problems.  The regulator proposed mandatory payments for consumers in cases where they experienced;

  • a delay to repairs following a loss of service,
  • delays to getting a broadband service installed beyond the date to which the provider had committed and
  • missed or cancelled appointments where the cancellation was with less than 24 hours notice.

Similar automatic compensation schemes apply to the energy and water industries, with the compensation usually paid by rebates applied to people’s bills.

The not so good news is that three of the UK’s biggest broadband providers, BT, Virgin Media and Sky, jointly proposed a voluntary scheme in which providers should be able to decide whether consumers qualify for compensation and how much they should get.  Needless to say consumers would be significantly worse off under the scheme suggested by the industry than they would under the Ofcom proposals

Under the compulsory scheme proposed by Ofcom, consumers would receive £30 per missed appointment while the industry has proposed £20 and the Ofcom figure for loss of service is £10 per calendar day after the first two working days compared with the industry figure of £7.

Citizens Advice has calculated that consumers with broadband problems would lose out by at least £52m in total under the industry scheme – a 32% reduction compared to Ofcom’s proposal.

Citizens Advice is encouraging Ofcom to stick to its guns.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said,

“Thousands of people each year seek our help when their provider fails to repair or set up their broadband. Some people are left without a working Internet connection for weeks despite numerous calls to their provider or no-shows from engineers. Broadband is now an essential service, with households relying on it for everyday activities, so a lack of a working service can make day to day tasks much more difficult.

“The regulator must hold its ground and introduce a compulsory automatic compensation scheme that clearly lays out how much consumers are entitled to when they get poor service, with the amount providers have to pay reflecting as closely as possible the detriment faced by consumers.

If you have a problem with your Internet service provider or any other consumer issue you can call the consumer help line on 03454 04 05 06.  You can also get help from Citizens Advice, or information and advice on Benefits, Work, Debt, Consumer Issues, Relationships, Housing, Law and Rights, Education, Discrimination, Tax and Healthcare by:

  • calling 0344 848 7969 to speak to an assessor or make an appointment to talk to an adviser face-to face. (calls to this service cost the same as calling 01 and 02 numbers included as part of a mobile allowance or a landline call package.
  • visiting to access our comprehensive range of information and advice,
  • or follow us on Twitter @ Waverley CAB
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