/ Money, Technology

Update: We want statutory compensation for broadband and phone outages

Broadband wires

How many times has your broadband gone down? What about losing your mobile phone signal when you needed it most? And yet there’s no statutory compensation for all your telecoms services.

For many of us, broadband access is essential. Like gas, water and electricity, we’ve come to rely on all of our telecoms services, whether broadband or mobile, and we expect them to work whenever and wherever.

Yet, your rights when things do go wrong are nowhere near as strong as with gas, water or electricity. Sometimes your internet could be out for days, or your phone line is down when you’re waiting for an urgent phone call. Some of you have told us about the annoyance this causes, such as Bryan:

‘When there is no service I cannot work or communicate with the outside world, my work, my family, my neighbours, my GP, my food sources, my TV. Compensation should be paid even if there are only short breaks in the service. People’s lives can depend on it.’

When you experience an outage or loss of service to you electricity, gas or water supply, you’re entitled to statutory compensation for the inconvenience. For example, if your electricity supply is cut off for over 12 hours, you could receive a payment of £75. For low water pressure you can receive £25 in compensation. But there’s no such scheme if your broadband goes down.

Broadband down for months

There are occasions when providers do offer compensation, but as a customer it’s difficult if not impossible to find out how you might go about claiming or what criteria needs to be met when things go wrong. Lin had a terrible experience:

‘I was once without service for several months, which caused no end of inconvenience. I spent hours, sometimes seven consecutively, on the phone to their service line which kept cutting off, putting me through to a new and clueless person each time, which led to me breaking down and sobbing with frustration nearly every day.

‘In spite of trying to leave my contract, I could not without penalty. After many weeks and trying to escalate complaint, I was offered compensation of the measly sum of £1 per day for no service which I derided.’

Statutory compensation in telecoms

That’s why we think there should be a statutory scheme for automatic compensation in telecoms. We think this compensation should be simple, easy and fair and should be based on the expectations of customers rather than an arbitrary figure or unclear criteria.

Ofcom is due to announce the results of its first review of the telecoms sector in 10 years, and we hope that it announces measures that will make the sector work for consumers. We will find out tomorrow and we’ll be sure to keep you updated.

Have you suffered from bad broadband or poor mobile signal? Did you attempt to get compensation? How did that go?

Update 25 February 2016

Ofcom has published the conclusions from its first strategic review of the communications sector in 10 years. It includes an announcement on automatic compensation.

Ofcom said it intends to introduce automatic compensation for when things go wrong with your broadband, landline or mobile. You won’t have to battle with getting compensation yourself; instead you’ll receive automatic refunds for any loss or reduction in service. Ofcom will consult on this proposal this year.

Update 6 July 2016 – Digital Economy Bill

Yesterday the government published its Digital Economy Bill which included lots of measures to improve mobile and broadband services in the UK and action to clamp down on nuisance calls.

The Bill means that you will now have a legal right to broadband and to request an internet connection, through the creation of a Universal Service Obligation. More action can be taken against companies who break the rules on direct marketing which will give you greater protections from nuisance calls.

You will be entitled to automatic compensation when you don’t get what you’ve paid for or something goes wrong with your service. And it will be easier to switch mobile phone services as your provider will do all the hard work, not you.

Telecoms is an essential service so we welcome these measures in the Digital Economy Bill and we’ll be working with government and others to make sure they are introduced swiftly so that all mobile and broadband customers receive a better service and are protected from nuisance calls.

Update 20 July 2016

BT Broadband customers have been suffering internet access problems today with outages reported in several areas of the country.

Problems with the service came to light at around 9.30am this morning after affected customers and businesses took to Twitter to complain. BT stated that around 10% of its customers were affected.

Today’s problems come only a day after MPs warned BT to reform and improve investment in its Openreach network or face a break-up.

We think customers who face outages like today’s should be automatically compensated. That’s why our campaign is calling on the Government to push forward its Digital Economy Bill ​to give broadband customers this right as soon as possible.


Mr Pedant here – there is no “statatory” compensation nor is there “statuary” compensation. Nor is it as essential as gas, electricity or water. And as most have mobile phones you should not be without contact with the outside world.

However I agree that if you are not receiving a service for a significant time, you should at least have that proportion of your charge refunded. I am not in favour of an automatic compensation culture, where everyone irrespective of need, gets paid because, in the end, it is my money that they will be getting through increased charges – it does not come from some magic pot.

And there is a fundamental difference between inconvenience – when you’d like to be able to use broadband but can get by for a few days without it – and real financial loss for a business. The latter would most probably be significantly higher than a statutory compensation payment anyway and I suggest would be best dealt with by taking out appropriate insurance.

Hi Malcolm, just on your first point. The typo was my bad and I thought I fixed it before you’d notice 😉 You’re too fast

I get that too fast comment sometimes when I post, Patrick!

4caster says:
28 February 2016

If your child could not do his or her homework because the broadband were slow or not working, you would not describe this as a mere “inconvenience”.
If you were a farmer who had to make statutory returns on the internet, you would not regard loss of broadband as a mere “inconvenience”.
Ofcom should be concentrating on the last 1% who only get 0.5 Mbps or less, and then the next 4% who get between 0.5 and 2.0 Mbps, before they start to worry about ultra-fast broadband to those who imagine they need it.

4caster, as i said you can get by without it for a few days. That is inconvenient. Then you can resume tasks.

AS BT is my ISP i have always had an interest in this subject. If you are a BT customer you get compensation after the third day out of service of credit on the following days rental of your phone (landline +broadband ) . BT state quite clearly they do NOT guarantee a fault free service . If you are a business you will need to check your conditions of service (contract ) as to whether you can claim more (for loss of business ) . Dont try as one guy did who said he was operating a business from home but paying for a private subscriber rental and wanted compensation , he got the boot from BT and they took him to court (read your conditions of service ) . If you are out of service due to a technical fault in the exchange equipment of a PRIVATE company who has installed its OWN equipment in BT,s exchange its them you claim against NOT BT . Any claim from customers of private companies must be done through them not BT. There is more I can add.

Well I found it ! There is online a form telling you how to claim from BT in the event that you suffered ACTUAL financial loss due to loss of service . Its called the Service Guarantee Scheme and the form is called the Actual Financial Loss Claim Form –be aware BT is no fool you will need to supply a lot of personal info including genuine wage slips and a lot of other person info and BT reserve the Right to check into all aspects of your financial situation privately and the right to refuse , so you better be kosher or their well equipped Legal Dept will take you apart..

In another Conversation I have supported the case for better broadband services in rural areas, I don’t see broadband in the same league as water, gas and electricity. Only once can I remember being without broadband for more than 12 hours and there was a good reason for it. If the service was consistently poor then I would certainly expect some form of compensation, such as a partial refund of what I pay by direct debit. I use mobile broadband to get online if there is a power cut or other reason why my normal broadband does not work.

If broadband is really that important, then take out insurance as Malcolm has suggested.

4caster says:
28 February 2016

wavechange, you are fortunate to be able to choose between a generally acceptable broadband service and mobile broadband. You would think differently if you had neither. Those of us with 0.5 Mbps or less, and no 4G or even 3G mobile pay just as much line rental and mobile charges as others.

Hi 4caster – My comments were related to the compensation issue, where I don’t believe that temporary loss of broadband is as important as loss of water, gas and electricity.

In other Conversations I have certainly supported the need to make broadband more widely available. Until recently I knew people whose download speed was 1Mbps on a good day, but after years of frustration they now have an acceptable service.

Hi all, good news, Ofcom has reported back on its review of the Communications Market including a proposal for automatic compensation… so there’s a win! We’ll be posting more about it soon, but feel free to read over it yourself. http://media.ofcom.org.uk/news/2016/digital-comms-review-feb16/

For a regulator of communications, Ofcom won’t win any prizes for its own output – what an unappealing press release, including the now-obligatory primary school graphics! Never mind, its efforts are to be welcomed. Common sense has at last prevailed over the unlocking of access to BT’s huge network of cable ducts and overhead installations.

I feared we were approaching a situation whereby other service providers would have to start digging up the roads and pavements again to lay a parallel network of facilities with intermediate cabinets and distribution boxes. When a lot of the BT underground infrastructure was modernised it was designed primarily for thick multi-core copper cable and huge surplus capacity was built in. I have a tendency to peer into openings in the footway and I have seen nine and twelve tube ductwork with just three tubes carrying cables. Modern fibre cabling can carry a vast amount of simultaneous traffic through a much smaller diameter of cable so there is a huge untapped resource beneath our feet in towns and cities as well as in many rural areas between exchanges and other nodes. There is also a microwave network and satellite transmission carrying trunk traffic so it is a good idea to get this installed local distribution capacity into more economic use. The question of whether Openreach should be detached from BT and made fully independent has been shelved for now but it is clearly still on the agenda if the directed reforms to its governance do not bear fruit.

Ofcom has high expectations of superfast broadband coverage with 95% of the UK having access by the end of 2017 with a safety-net minimum of 10 Mbit/s “by 2020″ [does that mean what it says or ‘by the end of 2020”?]. Having access to superfast broadband is one thing but being able to afford it is another, of course, but it should at least enable the lowest minimum speeds on stepped tariffs to be higher.

Automatic compensation for service interruption is a good move and ought to provide an incentive for providers to maintain the reliability of their networks. Checking the accuracy of the compensation might be tricky though: the recent Which? Conversation on the misuse of the speaking clock service for line tests followed by denial when challenged by customers who have been charged is a warning.

From ‘primary school graphics’, infographics will grow. Even familiar consumers’ associations use them to good effect these days.

Yes, . . . I know . . . but I just laughed when I saw the blue and orange cables looping up from a street cabinet to a nearby telegraph pole. Bless.

As did I… anyway, this might be a bit overkill but we’ve published a new convo: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/ofcom-bt-openreach-broadband-digital-communications-review/

John – long ago BT,s underground cables were “unbundled ” by HMG decree -ANY authorized ISP/telephone company can make use of BT,s external (local) infrastructure by paying a set amount to BT . Virgin/Bristol has its own cables/ducts there are various small telephone companies who install their own cable but they are in cities where the big money is. NOBODY -ie- any other telephone company wants to install cable etc to LOW income areas -ie- in the country areas – BT had to be given grants to do this . You mention microwave/satellite -do you know the cost of this ?? Did you read my post on Norway -because of its vast amount of money from oil that they put in savings they were able to subsidize the installation of that type of infrastructure ALL over mountainous Norway . And the UK – £ Billions of oil revenue went into a different infrastucture—subsidizing inner London+ City infrastructure .

If the unbundling were successful and other service providers could easily access BT’s ducts and poles Ofcom’s review would not have been necessary. The initial conclusions make clear that BT has been obstructive and put its own interests before those of the other companies and, ultimately, the customers.

Cable companies had no alternative but to install their own ductwork in the 1990’s because BT was still a monopoly provider and would not grant access to its infrastructure. Just as cable was gaining momentum and extending coverage in urban areas, satellite technology for households became available economically and the proliferation of dishes we now have in our towns and cities are the result. The local cable companies were largely obliterated by competition from Sky TV and BSB [subsequently merged] and few are now still operational but all their expensive infrastructure remained under the footways and is presumably now in the hands of Virgin Media which is the only large-scale cable operator. With the opening up of the BT ducts Virgin Media now have an opportunity to expand incrementally from their existing network but, as well as by satellite, cable is now also challenged by television and other services transmitted over broadband.

I mentioned microwave and satellite transmission of telecoms in the context of trunk traffic between hubs. This relieved the need for duct capacity, again leading to the excess of capacity over requirement. The microwave network was completed many years ago and I would say has been very cost-effective. As you say, the UK’s oil revenues were largely spent on other capital projects and that was probably the right decision at the time since they have now dwindled and it’s a good job we are not so reliant on them.

I was left without a phone service with Virgin Media for 7 days. A week before I was left without the phone for another 2 days. I have not received any compensation for this and in fact my bill went up by £3.99. The second increase of this amount in the past year. It is these companies helping themselves to 10% rises per year that angers me the most

I was with talk talk for nearly 3 years and had an average of 9 months broadband, they had 3 different engineers out to try and fix the problem, which they still couldn’t fix I called them endless times and they always said the fault was my internal wiring, well I had an engineer out at my own expense and guess what my internal wiring was fine the fault was out side. When I called them again! and explained that I had an engineer out to test the internal and external wiring, and told them the fault is outside not inside, I also told them they had 28 days to fix it as this problem had been on going for nearly 3 years (as I was paying for a service I was hardly getting) or I was going else where, well nothing, never heard another word so I called told them I was reporting them to of gem, they were very rude, so I cancelled the contract (it only had 2 mths to go) and signed up with sky, the engineer came out a week later, explained to him the problems I had had for nearly 3 yrs, he went outside and came back in 5MINS later and said that’s it fixed!!!! one 4 inch piece of wire had corroded and he replaced it and my broadband is fine hs worked continuously since it started in sept 15. I got a bill in from talk talk for £167,78 for ending the contract and for the final 2 mths of contract, well I was £27 a mth so they have charged me £120 for cancelling the contract early, I should be getting PAID from them not BILLED for lack of service so come on talk talk I will take you to court and have you pay me back in compensation for the 25 mths of no service and compensation for the crap signal for the 9 mths I did (barely) have service, then they wonder why they loose custom , now 3 engineers they had out and one was here for over 3 hrs and they still couldn’t fix it!!!! sky engineer was there for 5 mins and had it fixed, complete sham of a company do not use talk talk their customer service is as bad as their broadband signal weak and frustrating.

This may well help for a ‘loss or reduction’ in service, but what about situations where the mobile service is ALWAYS poor e.g. in rural areas? Bear in mind also, that ‘Smart’ energy meters also use the mobile network and suffer from communication errors.

Ofcom coverage checker gives you the main providers of mobile networks and providers, so where I live I could deduce o2 are the best voicecall indoors,
EE not at my property but further down the road, and giffgaff had best contracts but network didn’t cover my area.
Asda atom have best service and contracts but also don’t use the same network providers which do not cover my area.
I only get bt landline here too, so I have to use them.
But I can use my 02 data monthly supply and make a private hotspot at my home, should there be wifi/ broadband drop out.
I use Tp-link to set up private data hotspot with O2 provider which you can set up using settings on a computer
Membership share and the tp-link management I.P. Page when you have a private broadband connection.
A laptop/ stand alone/ modem router. Asdl2 filter and a telephone line.
Where I live if there is a thunderstorm, it’s best to get surge protectors on your phone sockets as modem routers are expensive and they fuse and fail as they are attached to the mains.
Why is it gone are the days of analogue phones?
They aren’t connected to the mains, so if there is a storm you should still be able to use your analogue phone to call the electricity board?.

Madeleine-the “death” of the old non-fully digital phone which requires no mains supply is a symptom of “progress ” it also meant less load on the telephone exchange as “central batteries ” were removed from them and house(dect ) cordless phones were mains powered but as you pointed out in the event of a electric power outage they are useless thats why you got warnings to keep an old phone handy to be able to call for help. But we now have self-powered cell-net phones (smartphones ) with a built in rechargeable battery and that is now the answer given if you have a power failure , but I dont have a smartphone but I do have many old dial phones as I repair old bakelite ones and GPO 706/746 ones.

We have perfectly serviceable modern telephone instruments in a number of the sockets indoors; they are powered only through the exchange line, not from the house electricity supply. The ringer is switched off on some of them.

As duncan says, wise to keep an “old fashioned” plug-in phone handy for when the power goes off and your cordless phones stop working. I would never rely on mobile phones just in case the signal is lost, the battery runs out, I can’t find it – or the screen is cracked!

It has long been a recommendation to have a phone that does not rely on mains power, though one upstairs and downstairs might be a good idea. Some months ago there was a local power cut that also affected both the mobile network and even the landline. Both usually survive when there are power cuts, in my experience.

shayne spencer says:
22 May 2016

totally agree with you, these smartphones are suppose to organise life, remind me this, plan my diary, my next meal, stream live video on your daliy travel to and from work, carry less items in you bags, bacislly one smart phone does it all, WRONG!,,,, would be perfect if the battery last more than 8hours, it’s not even long enough for a working day, so it gets to mid afternoon and battery getting low, so you have to do the app shut down save battery mode, which is a complete head arce in it self, this aloan complicates your diary and reminders, which apps do you turn off, don’t miss that Important message, the boring travel home, nothing to do other stare out of the public transport window,

Yes there are battery boost packs to keep your phone topped up with jucie, but this is another item to be carried around, nowt to mention, charging that up as well,

just inconvenience

all the technology the world has created, we can run a car of battery’s and sunlight, even H2o,

but a battery for a smart phone to last at least a working day,

come on smart phone tech guys, you get payed a lot of money, do somthing thar will actually benifit smartphone users, (probably 80% of the world)

I have over the years had excellent service from every part of Utilities Warehouse
I got a special offer from Sky and switched. No problem
THEN tried to go back to Utilities Warehouse
and landed up with four weeks of hell
trying to run two businesses without internet access
hours on the phone trying to sort out the problems
only being able to access the internet by going down to Starbucks etc
Eventually gave up and switched back to Sky which worked perfectly
BUT as a result of not continuing with the failed attempt to switch back to Utilities Warehouse
they fined me £150 and would not listed to my subsequent objection

It would be a very good idea if in this day and age there should be a way of building something in a mobile phone that once the contract is fulfilled it unlocks itself, there should be a way of manufacturers building something like that into New handsets.

Helen says:
4 March 2016

I had the most dreadful experience with Tesco mobile, and they would not release the unlock code for weeks when I changed provider. Therefore I was without that phone for well over a month because they blamed Motorola for the delay. I would certainly never go back to them.

Graeme says:
31 March 2016

Question for Helen, did tesco supply you with a code and if so did your phone unlock there and then I ask as I have a code from them for my Motorola but unsure what to do

Graeme- till Helen answers you tesco will supply you with an unlocking code after 12 months with them for free . Under that time they can charge £20 . According to Ofcom ,selling a phone that cant be unlocked is not strictly allowed , but I see your hesitation as the set of unlocking codes supplied by third parties can make major hidden changes to your phone that you might not be happy with in terms of usability . In the case of unlocking SIM,s shows attempting this practice may involve physical damage rendering it useless . Having said that I dont expect Tesco to give you unlocking codes that do that , but be aware that there are plenty of third party “unlockers ” on the web but some have ulterior motives at heart. Just be careful who you get to unlock it.

stephen c says:
26 March 2016

my issue is that my bill rate has not reduced when my 2 year contract ended. I queried this with O2 who said that this was because i purchased the phone through Carphone Warehouse. O2 said that if i had bought it direct from them then they would have reduced the bill. As it was through Carphone Warehouse it does not reduce. I think this is a feeble excuse because at the end of the day I am being billed direct by O2 and paying them direct and C/W are not involved.

Roger Morton says:
31 March 2016

The problem is not just the time it takes to get a phone unlocked but the providers’ capacity to do it. Last year I spent more than three months trying to get an unlocking code for my Ericsson from Orange but nothing they sent me worked and they simply gave up and I had to get a new phone. So they need to agree that if they want to cease supporting unlocking on any model of phone they ensure that all users of that phone on their network are told and given an unlocking code.

The campaign should include harsh penalties if mobile phone companies claim coverage where it doesn’t exist.

JAY says:
22 May 2016

I recently found that my Orange mobile had the credit withdrawn When contacting Orange EE Iwas told that it had been sometime since I had used my phone February was the last time due to me being admitted to hospital the EE operator said it would be to my advantage to tranfer to EE which I did not knowing that my phone would need to be unlocked which would incurr a chare of over £8.00, this I refused but was then told I could not transfer back to Orange if I wanted to keep the same number , which I have had or over 10 years.Iam still waiting for them to unlock my Orange phone (Samsung C3050)this is now geting on for a week.EE stated t hey would waive the cost?of unlocking

These smartphones are suppose to organise life, remind me this, plan my diary, my next meal, stream live video on your daliy travel to and from work, carry less items in you bags, bacislly one smart phone does it all, WRONG!,,,, would be perfect if the battery last more than 8hours, it’s not even long enough for a working day, so it gets to mid afternoon and battery getting low, so you have to do the app shut down save battery mode, which is a complete head arce in it self, this aloan complicates your diary and reminders, which apps do you turn off, don’t miss that Important message, the boring travel home, nothing to do other stare out of the public transport window,

Yes there are battery boost packs to keep your phone topped up with jucie, but this is another item to be carried around, nowt to mention, charging that up as well,

just inconvenience

all the technology the world has created, we can run a car of battery’s and sunlight, even H2o,

but a battery for a smart phone to last at least a working day,

come on smart phone tech guys, you get payed a lot of money, do somthing thar will actually benifit smartphone users, (probably 80% of the world)

malcolm chambers says:
24 May 2016

something different……
Each year, my D/D failed in September and October.
Not my bank’s fault, and not on my instructions.
Orange refuse to accept responsability, causing my credit rating to drop.
Orange refuse to re-open this case, and added to the fact that my bank accounts and credit card were subject to fraud, my credit rating is low due to no fault of my own.
I have now have to wait six years for this problem to clear itself, resulting in extra charges due to my low rating.

Susan Jane Burney says:
24 May 2016

Don’t you make enough money, by prostituting high call charges.It wasn’t until “which” magazine joined the debate that you were forced to lower your premium call charges!!!!

Wilma lang says:
22 June 2016

How come we all need a Philadelphia Lawyer to have our mobile phones Un-Locked. Just let us do it within a couple of simple presses of our phone, instead of hanging on a line unnecessarily often for a few minutes longer than we have time form, so bottom line, cut the jargon and let us feel more liberated by doing it ourselves….Stop ripping the lower classes off with your gutsy extortionate charges, we have better things to spend our money on-you know.

I sympathize Wilma I dont own one but I know the lengths you have to go through and different manufacturers have different codes/ programming etc as well as different telephone companies policies.

Andrew says:
23 June 2016

I have a few contracts with O2 but I have around 12 direct debits and these amount to more than their small business contracts yet I am just a Dad so I can’t have just one direct debit. But can I shop around? Noooooo! Because all the devices are LOCKED!!! Arrrrggghhh! The have me over a barrel and they know it! Do they care? Do they @&£!?&@!!!! Never had the promised call from a manager, how stupid am I?

Yes Andrew reading the conditions for a NON business contract under Pay monthly + Pay+Go you can be unlocked at any time ,for free ,for Pay Monthly . Even if you change the sim you have to see your contract out , Pay + Go can be unlocked 12 months after purchase for £15 . I will check if there are other “methods ” of doing this.— Okay Andrew whats the model and name of your phone so I can check “other ” methods ? I must warn you that unlocking your phone has been known to allow hackers to take it over I am not trying alarm you because probably you will be okay but you will need to be careful where you go to get it unlocked.