/ Technology

Ask Which? – compensation when my broadband goes down

Spanner on laptop

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?


I normally start to tweet Plusnet if my broadband goes down for more than 30mins. (I am online pretty much all day and use my laptop for catch-up tv & for my music too).

If I am down for more than half a day I start to ask for credit and normally they agree (well 100% of the time really).

I have never been down for more than half a day apart from when I joined them a few months ago. I had no internet for 2 full days. I was tweeting plusnet and Which? and they offered to give me one month free. So that totally made up for the downtime.

JoqueYoularre says:
23 November 2014

What, so getting, maybe £15 for free is acceptable for half a day of not being able to use something as potentially-crucial to modern life as the internet? That’s not £15 back in your pocket to do what you will with, but as ‘credit’ against money that you HAVE TO spend in the future with a provider who’s already got at least ONE black mark against them in the reliability stakes. Yeah, seems legit, bro…
You can’t hold companies to a high standard of service without checking the contract and leveraging proper legal weight against them, so they can lose the maximum money possible if they mess the customer about in any way. That’s the only way you can stop companies who make it part of their business model to mess customers about. Luckily, Plusnet don’t seem to. Although they are enslaved to the BT (Infrastructure / Wholesale / Openreach) MONOPOLY, which dictates the terms to the whole nation, unfortunately. Plusnet weren’t competent enough to detect a major line fault that was affecting broadband massively (300kbps synch speed). BT didn’t check it carefully enough with their incompetent systems, either. They threatened the full £££ cost of an engineer visit if the issue was not with their equipment. We couldn’t afford to risk it. Only when BT happened to send them out for a related but phone-related fault that had FINALLY got escalated properly, did the engineers find out that it was a fault in the line 90m away [ultimately due to lazy and disinterested, instead of pro-active, BT maintenance].
No-one there started doing their job until the last few % of the timescale. That’s pathetic, and this kind of hassle is worth a LOT more than a paltry low ££ figure. The Government Watchdog is just worthless and the laws stunt the economy by protecting heel-dragging companies and idiots with only their quarterly results and greed in mind, not engineering and service-excellence.
The UK is a great market for such ignorant companies, as it is full of weak-minded, low-self-esteem muppets who can’t stand up for themselves. Show me the % of people who get their due, if you want to accuse me of being too harsh. Capitalism doesn’t work that way – it will squeeze any element it can to produce more for those at the top. Ignorant, pliant people who don’t learn any better, are the most easily-squeezed part of the equation…

Edward says:
19 July 2016

If your broadband normally costs £10 -£20 per month, £15 credit on your bill for a day or several days seems more than reasonable as they are only required to reduce your bill by the actual cost of the service that should have been supplied. If companies are forced to pay more to everyone for line faults they will transfer that cost to the customer via higher bills.


My broadband connection goes down whenever there is a brief power cut, perhaps once every two months. Generally it’s working again in a short time but occasionally the service is not restored for hours. I just use mobile broadband if there is a problem. I would probably complain if I had no service for a couple of days, but that has not happened yet.

richard says:
6 September 2013

I am a happy Virgin customer – In the past roughly twenty years – I was the first customer in my area when NTL laid the cable ( As BT was so bad) It has been crystal clear ever since – The connection went down twice in all that time – rather than the five times a week under BT ( I was thrown off the internet by the net users as the BT connection was so bad) In each of the two disconnections it was repaired the NEXT DAY. Now BT put up posters locally stating the first broad band is now running – A total LIE – cable broadband has been with us locally for around 20 years – I wouldn’t trust BT for anything – not only was the connection appalling – but they tried to charge me for reverse charge calls when I was at work. Virgin forever.


I would love to move to Virgin, Richard. But the cost is a little bit too high for me 🙁

richard says:
7 September 2013

Can only say – BT and those companies using BT landlines were/are so bad locally that I did not have a proper local service at all – so I waited in eager anticipation until NTL laid their cable and applied the day NTL started work in 1995 – BT was often not working properly 4 days out of 5 – denied my connection was not working – and took ages to repair when they at last admitted it did not work – . From the Day NTL connected me the line was reliable and crystal clear and I had a telephone service and internet connection that BT were charging me for but did not deliver – it has gone wrong twice – both times due to the set top box which was replaced next day – It is more expensive but I use the internet about 6 hours a DAY and TV 24/7 due to dogs. So as far as I’m concerned it is a bargain – Can only add my friends opted to belong to Virgin when they compared my excellent service with whatever service they were using. Virgin’s help line is also good and FREE.


Seems my experience of Virgin has been completely the opposite, only last month broadband was down for the best part of 24 years ( I too have been a customer since the days of NT-helL) . You ring up their overseas call centre and they’re so working from a script, it takes them ages to get to recognising you have an issue. Only last week the line dropped in the middle of the day, and if I didn’t know any better it was probably cos some engineer unplugged a cable from a cabinet and to connect a new customer. And when they doubled my speed I still end up ringing as they’d not even done that properly. And only having broadband with them ( I ditched phone and tv cos the service was so poor) I get to use an 0845 number when I have a problem. Unfortunately their the only proper broadband and not ADSL pretending to be broadband, so I’m stuck.