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.