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Broadband customers set for automatic compensation when things go wrong

Written by: Adam Lewis
Customers who suffer from slow repairs or missed deadlines when it comes to their landline or broadband service will receive automatic compensation under new proposals.

The communications watchdog Ofcom today proposed that customers who suffer from poor service will receive money back – either in the form of a cash payment, or a credit on a bill – from their providers without having to ask.

Ofcom estimates these plans would mean up to 2.6 million additional landline and broadband customers could receive up to £185m in new compensation payments each year.

The proposal follows the government’s announcement last year that it would push forward legislation as part of the Digital Economy Bill to ensure customers would get compensation when their broadband fails, with amounts similar to those given by energy and water companies for outages.

Am I entitled to compensation?

Customers would be entitled to automatic compensation, without having to go through a potentially lengthy and difficult claims process, whenever:

  • Their landline or broadband is not fixed quickly enough after it has stopped working; or
  • Their new landline or broadband service is not up and running on the day promised; or
  • An engineer doesn’t arrive for an appointment as scheduled.

How much would I get?

The compensation payments would be set by Ofcom and designed to “reflect the degree of harm suffered by consumers”. Here is how the scheme would work:

  1. Delayed repair following loss: If your landline or broadband service stopped working and it’s not fully fixed after two full working days, customers would get £10 for each calendar day that the service is not fully fixed.
  2. Missed appointments: If an engineer doesn’t turn up for a scheduled appointment or it’s cancelled with less than 24 hours’ notice, customers would be entitled to receive £30 per missed appointment.
  3. New service delays: If a provider promises to start a new service on a particular date but it fails to do so, customers could receive £6 for each calendar day of delay, including the missed start date.

Lindsey Fussell, consumer group director at Ofcom, said: “When a customer’s landline or broadband goes wrong, that is frustrating enough without having to fight tooth and nail to get fair compensation from the provider.

“So we’re proposing new rules to force providers to pay money back to customers automatically, whenever repairs or installations don’t happen on time, or when people wait in for an engineer who doesn’t turn up. This would mean customers are properly compensated, while providers will want to work harder to improve their service.”

‘Proposal acts as a powerful motivator’

Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home services, said: “Broadband has become a modern day essential, so it is only right that consumers should get compensation when their provider fails to deliver.

“Ofcom now needs to swiftly push ahead with these proposals and ensure that this and other measures help to significantly improve the service that broadband customers receive.”

Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms expert at broadband advice site, said: “This proposal will act as a powerful motivator to ensure broadband and landline providers fix problems efficiently and keep their promises. It will ensure that investment in prompt maintenance and customer support becomes a preferable option to letting customers down.

“Broadband and fixed line providers need to take responsibility for the costs incurred in both time and frustration to customers without vital services. This proposal means that taking a day off work to wait in for an engineer who doesn’t show up, or being without this essential utility for extended periods comes at a cost to the provider.”

Ofcom is set to publish a final decision towards the end of the year.


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