Broadband providers must automatically compensate customers for bad service under new Ofcom rules

Broadband[1] and landline users will be able to get money back from their providers when things go wrong without having to make a claim, under new rules laid out by communications watchdog Ofcom[2]. The regulator on Friday said that automatic compensation will be handed out for slow repairs, missed appointments and delayed installations. Ofcom said that at present, compensation is paid out in around one in seven, or 15 per cent, of cases, and then only in small amounts.

Under the new rules, if repairs to service are delayed following an outage, customer will get ?8 for every calendar day on which the service is not repaired, after two full working days. They will also get ?25 for an engineer missing an appointment or cancelling with less than 24 hours’ notice, and ?5 for each calendar day after the day on which a customer was promised the provider would start a new service. “Waiting too long for your landline or broadband to be fixed is frustrating enough, without having to fight for compensation,” said Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s consumer group director.

She said that under the new rules, “people will get the money they deserve, while providers will want to work harder to improve their service.” Ofcom said that, overall, they expect compensation levels to increase around nine fold. Consumer group Which? welcomed the move.

“We are pleased that compensation for poor broadband is going to become automatic, as it is now such an essential part of all of our everyday lives,” said Alex Neill, managing director of home services at Which?. “For all consumers to get what they’re entitled to, it’s vital that all providers play fair and sign up to this scheme.” Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms analyst at broadband comparison and advice site, said that Ofcom’s decision should be viewed as a way to “force providers to spend money improving service-levels across the next 15 months”.

“When in place these measures should go some way towards ensuring consumers are fairly compensated both for days taken off work to wait for engineers who never arrive, and for days spent without service,” Mr Howdle said. Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, also welcomed the move but said that it is “essential that Ofcom holds the broadband companies to account through strict reporting to ensure consumers receive the compensation they are entitled to”. “We will be looking closely at Ofcom’s full review of the scheme after 12 months to make sure it works for consumers,” she said.

Ofcom research shows that nine in ten adults report going online every day, and three-quarters of internet users say it is important to their daily lives.


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