Ask Which? – compensation when my broadband goes down
Peter asks: We lost connection to our BT Broadband for 14 out of 18 days. We contacted them repeatedly, and an adviser asked my elderly wife to crawl on the floor to unscrew the plug and check all the connections!
They told us the problem had to be in our flat. We said we’d had the same problem a number of times before and each time the problem was in the BT exchange. After several long and frustrating conversations, they sent out an engineer.
He spent a lot of time here and eventually concluded that the problem was at the exchange. At 4pm he returned and told us that we had had absolutely no connection at the exchange and was not surprised that we had no line. He created a new connection and now all is well.
We phoned and asked for compensation for the 14 days loss of internet, frequent visits to a coffee shop to use their internet, and for the amount of time we spent on the phone to BT customer services. After a lot of argument they offered us £4.52 in compensation.
I feel strongly that BT broke their contract with us to supply a full service and took exceptionally long to reconnect us and therefore for our time and inconvenience we should have got a fair compensation.
Emily Brunwin in our Consumer Rights team responds:
This sounds like a really frustrating situation. When you have a contract with a service provider, under the Supply of Goods and Services Act you’re entitled to get the services you were promised, provided with reasonable skill and care.
As you are unhappy with BT’s response to your problem, you could try making a formal complaint using their complaints procedure, if you haven’t already.
It’s rare for the law to require compensation be paid for inconvenience. In terms of the additional expenses that you occurred while visiting the coffee shop to use the internet, it really depends on what they were. If you paid a direct fee for use of the internet, BT may consider this. However, if internet was free but you needed to buy a coffee to use it, it is unlikely that this will be compensated for, as it can be argued that you could have gone to an internet café, or library, to replace the service.
When you are seeking reimbursement, you will not be able to claim for both the loss of your internet, and the additional cost of paying for the same service elsewhere.
In terms of the money spent on calls to BT, if you can itemise your phone bill and identify the amount you spent, in your situation it’s not unreasonable to request reimbursement for this.
If you’re still not happy, and choose not to accept the reimbursement offered from BT, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) may help you settle your complaint. All broadband providers have to sign up to an ADR scheme. BT provide ADR through the Ombudsman Services: Communications. The Ombudsman has the additional right, above the law, to demand compensation be paid for inconvenience.
If your complaint has not been solved within eight weeks by BT, and it sounds like it hasn’t been, you can take it to the ombudsman, who will look at the evidence provided by both sides to come to a resolution.
Has your broadband ever gone down? Did your ISP treat you well and give you the compensation you felt you deserved?
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