/ 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.

Debs says:
20 July 2016

We live 14 minutes drive from St Andrews in Fife and BT has told us our area can only have 1mb. In real terms we are trying to work on 0.5mbps. This is terrible considering we are paying over £50 for this service. An OpenReach engineer (they are always here due to cut lines) said we would never get fibre as we are so far from local exchanges!

Debs I know St Andrews , could you give me the name of the village you live in or if not what exchange are you on – 01334 ?? , if so it covers a wide country area . You sound as if you are several miles from the cabinet at that speed . If you live in a village you can get together and apply for a wireless connection from a private company , they put an aerial on your house , I am sure somebody else is doing that in your area and you can get subsidised by the Scottish government.

Usha Deulkar says:
20 July 2016

I always have problem with telephone and mobile reception and broad band in my area.(high peak).

Malcolm AIKEN says:
21 July 2016

Rodmell (between Lewes and Newhaven) has one of the lowest Broadband speeds in the UK at 0.7 mbs, with constant dropouts, and,of course,,today 20/7/16 no email or internet connection for over 3hours due to the BT outage. Are BT doing anything about it, or giving any compensation? Of course they are not……they obviously don’t care about customers.

Jesse Lawrence says:
21 July 2016

I live in arural area – copper wires. No fibre optics in near future. I have found BT an impossible company to deal with – always threatening me with a callout fee of over £100. So I switched to Sky broadband over a year ago. Sky has a’ can do’ mentality. Although still rely on Open Reach I have washed BT right out of my hair – or nearly. I kept the email service but soon after I left BT, it decided to put up my email charge by a large percentage. why did I have to pay for the same service as my son who gets a superdoop BT broadband service in a town. BT should not forget that its primary service is to provide its customers with a good broadband service not enterntainment. Nationalise Open Reach in the same way as Network Rail is in public hands !

Hotmail and Gmail are free to use email services. Hotmail is particularly good. Several addresses on one page.

Jesse Lawrence says:
21 July 2016

I do have gmail but it is often a bind to change an email account immediately. I will tranfer. Is there a method to to tranfer all incoming Bt emails to a new email provider?

Jesse- you answered your own question – I washed BT right out of my hair ” . BT is a private company not a public service in the real sense of the word . You all voted for it to be privatized. Why should I subsidize you , as a BT subscriber when you no longer contribute to BT funds ? The £5 charge is rightly there as you use BT equipment ? Name me all the other telephone companies that give free email service from ANOTHER provider ??

Paul Harper says:
21 July 2016

I was fed up with my BT broadband dropping every evening at 21:00. I switched to Virgin Media, £5 a month cheaper, 3 times faster, free voicemail and weekend calls and a dedicated line. NO DROP OFF! NO CONTEST!

jenny oswald says:
21 July 2016

Am I committed to stay with Bo on my contract. but I still have a few months to go on my contract
I’m fed up with them telling me I am nearing my usage, , service breaking down… and always charging me extra on my monthly bill.. Is it possible , for me to switch to Virgin ?? I hope so

Jenny -if Virgin have laid cable in your road then -yes ,if not –no . Thats the problem with all the complaints against BT, Virgin and the rest only want the profitable areas of the UK . Where are they in the non-profitable ones ??

Brian Male says:
21 July 2016

BT is the worst service provider I have ever dealt with. I have had on more than 12 occasions a drop out of 24 hours or more in a year. Every time I call I go through the same simple questions that takes an age to complete despite the repetitive nature of the problem. The front line Indian call centre is not it for purpose. BT should be made to sell off Openreach and compete in the market independently That would quickly improve their service or they would disappearance

Rory Savage. says:
21 July 2016

Earlier I posted above, about my loss of email connection………Now having read more and more comments, I think the time has come for some serious media attention ……on TV……..beginning-with an interview with Mr Gavin Patterson Chief Executive of BT………was it he who set-up BT Executive Complaints?……….surely a recognition that all was not well ? …………Customers need to know what he plans to do now.
Rory Savage.

Michael says:
21 July 2016

We live in rural Devon and have no choice. All broadband is by copper cable which can break down. We also get short interruptions and at times, the speed is little better than the old days of ‘dial up’. Worse still is the attitude of BT if you eventually get through to them to inquire – a 30 minute wait on the phone queue is common and when you reach the call centre, and the technical support, it can be difficult to understand the person you are talking to. However, once the person has recognised the problem is BT, the time to fix it can be really slow…

sean walsh says:
21 July 2016

its not on,,,,,we all pay good momey for there services….

D Furness says:
21 July 2016

My broadband is provided by aluminium cable that was laid in the 60,s i am never going to get good speed until that is replaced.

Iona Ross says:
21 July 2016

Yesterday I found that my broadband was not working very well, it was slow and could not get to some of the websites I usually use.

It is quite clear that there have been widespread outages and speed reductions across the whole country in the last few days. I question whether it started at 0930 on Wednesday 20 July 2016 as stated in the Intro. I believe it has been affecting services erratically since late on Sunday 17 July [or even earlier in some places] and gradually intensifying and spreading wider. As speed reduced, capacity was lost and network congestion occurred. Who you were logged on to and where their system was based determined what sort of service you were getting. Changing to a different website could either lead to successful transactions or total failure, and anything in between, unpredictably fading in and out of action according to traffic volume and time of day. I read somewhere that a major power supply failure was at the root of the problem and, as time went by the scale of the problem escalated as the network progressively collapsed under the weight of slow traffic.

Given that the country relies on broadband internet for nearly all its commercial and personal interactions, resilience is a key issue. There seems to have been a lack of reliable information or advice to the public about the problem; people have been thinking their own set-up is at fault and logging maintenance calls or enquiries. This must have affected public services and government too. It seems to me that before we get carried away with higher and higher speeds something serious needs to be done about improving resilience for the existing and obligated level of service provision. The cost of the inefficiency in all its forms caused by the recent problems will never be calculated but on its own it would probably pay for a substantial upgrade to provide a more reliable and watertight service.

Thats the problem John -advertising– the public expect very fast speeds as all the other telephone companies advertise it but fail to say its only in certain areas where the most profit is . Thats devious build ,em up , then complain about BT . I will ask a question and I hope to get a straight answer — Why arent all those companies covering 100 % of the country , it wouldnt be lack of big profits would it ? Where is Virgin in the Highlands area of Scotland ? serving that small cottage on a mountain . Doesn’t pay people should get realistic and even this Convo with the email sent is meant to generate high volumes of posts for Which generating unrealistic posts and more strengthening of sell off BT . Okay sell it off to Germany who want to buy it ( Deutsch Telekom ) (but defense of the nation gets put into the frame ) and then see a few years down the line all the moans about price etc. All companies were asked to take part in fibre expansion 100 % nationwide coverage , they all knocked it back only interested in the profitable areas . As your last sentence indicates WHO PAYS ????

Yes, Duncan – to my mind it’s a national problem requiring a government response. There is a lot of talk about the need for national infrastructure investment right now to help the economy against the impact of Brexit [a word I thought I would never use]. But we are where we are, and we have to make the best of it, so we had better get on with it.

louise says:
21 July 2016

After remaining a loyal BT customer for over 45 years, I have now voted with my feet and (thanks to Which) I have changed to Zen Internet for my phone line and broadband and website. I have also raised a complaint to BT as they wish to charge me £105+ for leaving before December 2016, but I have pointed out that I wouldn’t be leaving if their service was acceptable so I am expecting them to waive the penalty.

Actually louise I like Zen ,if I wasnt with BT I might go to them , I think they dont filter your line either ( I am NOT talking about porn etc , only political ). On the other hand BT ,s T+C ,just like all the others says if you stop your contract halfway through then you have to pay penalties . The only exception being serious illness /death or their quality of service falls consistently below what you are contracted for -ie- paying for speeds of 15Mbps to 50Mbps and you only get 10Mbps.

tony wright says:
21 July 2016

Today I received an email from you about BT dropping service. I am unable to reach your link.

That’s frustrating Tony! This is where we were sending you to – some advice on what to when you have broadband service problems: http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/l/broadband-service-problems

More reports of BT going down: http://www.mirror.co.uk/tech/bt-broadband-down-again-furious-8461512

Is it affecting you?

I guess this is affecting almost everybody because the sites they use are impacted. I was in the middle of an on-line order at around 0745 today when the retailer’s system had a fit [my end was alright], threw the order up in the air, and changed the delivery date. I had to telephone to cancel that order and set up another one. Not a huge inconvenience in the scheme of things but it would have been if time had been more critical. The Which? Conversation site was rolling around a bit the other day but it seemed to stay more or less upright while I was on board.

I doubt if the current problem is down to a lack of good engineers. It’s something much more systemic than that as I said in a previous post.

It knocked iCloud offline for a while. Very irritating…


Now that I certainly CAN agree to k .

Paul Williamson says:
21 July 2016

My small business was offline for nine days, I was originally told it was my equipment, so we changed the router and voip phone.
Still no internet, finally they admitted that there was a problem in their system.
No apoligy or offer of loss to us.
We have no other option but to deal with BT, when you say you want to leave because of their poor service, they tell you that you will have to pay for the rest of the contract period to be able to leave them.
When you tell them that you have a problem the first thing they tell you is that you will be charged if they cannot find any fault. I was quoted £200.00.
It took hours on the phone to get it removed from the bill.

Maria Poldervaart says:
21 July 2016

I agree that BT should be made to compensate their customers when they have experienced loss of phone or broadband connection due to problems with BT. I wish they had an English call centre staffed with people who know what they are doing and can give clear online support and get problems solved.

John Lowrie says:
21 July 2016

I am with BT on Infinity Package.

On the ninth of this month I finally discovered why I was unable to use my Email. I had spent some time trying to track down the problem. I found on BT’s website that apparently they thought I had been “Hacked” and advised me to change my password as they had blocked my Email. Over the next week I had to change this each time I wanted to use Email. The change gave me around 1/2 an hour before I was blocked again. Eventually Bt did say I had a broadband problem and they were working on it but would let me know when all was well. It took over a week till all was well, but I am still waiting to be told this. I had even phoned and spoke to one of their experts who reset my password from her end. Guess what, 1/2 an hour later blocked again. Can I say the rest of my Broadband worked fine throughout but not my so called Hacked Email. Have you ever tried to come up with over a dozen passwords and then try to remember which one you used? Frustrating though it was, I muddled through, but the service I received was not there and as usual has anyone ever tried to talk to anyone in a position of responsibility in BT? For a communications giant they make it very difficult to communicate.

John – this is a massive “bugbear ” with me in relation to “BT” Mail . When BT used BT Yahoo it was a virus birth place everything about it was wrong. Hacked easily /virus laden scammers paradise and you were even blocked from making vital changes to stop it , many on my account. When BT said -we are getting rid of Yahoo because of massive complaints I said Yoweee !!! that lasted all of the time it took to be told NO we are not becoming BT run email service BUT we are contracting it out to Critical Path a US company ,using THEIR servers ,no matter what you are told . Now this company is typical American , they look on us as “freeloaders ” as we are not paying direct as a result they decide what emails get through , they give your info to the NSA freely who “interfere” with it. They allow adverts and all sorts through if it gives them profit even porn . I have a monitoring service for “BT” email and it reports constant failures every week . Why -oh why ! didnt BT say- billion $$$ company we can afford to provide our own UK service for UK citizens , after all WE are a UK company but no -not paying directly ? then you are getting it free ,is their philosophy , come on BT as a loyal subscriber wise up !