Broadband and landline customers could pocket up to £185 million in payouts each year if new plans by Ofcom to force providers to pay compensation for service delays and missed appointments are given the go-ahead.
Under the regulator's proposals, you'll be entitled to automatic compensation – either a cash payment, or credit on a bill – whenever:
- Your landline or broadband is not fixed quickly enough after it has stopped working.
- Your new landline or broadband service is not up and running on the day promised.
- An engineer doesn't arrive for an appointment as scheduled.
Ofcom estimates the plans would mean up to 2.6 million additional landline and broadband customers could receive up to £185 million in new compensation payments each year.
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You could receive £10 a day for delayed repairs
If these plans are given the green light it would mean customers would no longer have to go through a potentially lengthy and difficult claims process. The proposed compensation payments would be set by Ofcom, and designed to reflect the degree of harm suffered by consumers.
Here's how Ofcom's automatic compensation scheme would work:
Payouts for poor service
|A landline or broadband customer would be entitled to compensation if...
|Amount of compensation
|Delayed repair following loss of service.
|Their service has stopped working and it's not fully fixed after two full working days.
|£10 for each calendar day that the service is not repaired.
|An engineer doesn't turn up for a scheduled appointment, or it's cancelled with less than 24 hours' notice.
|£30 per missed appointment.
|Delays with the start of a new service.
|The provider promises to start a new service on a particular date, but fails to do so.
|£6 for each calendar day of delay, including the missed start date.
Plans would bring an end to ad-hoc compensation payments for 'a significant minority'
Ofcom says that, while most customer are more or less satisfied with their telecoms services, "a significant minority still experience problems" and "payments are currently given ad-hoc to only a minority of those suffering problems".
The regulator's analysis suggests that each year:
- There are 5.7 million cases of consumers experiencing a loss of their landline or broadband service.
- Engineers fail to turn up for about 250,000 appointments.
- Around one in eight landline and broadband installations are delayed (12%), affecting more than 1.3 million people.
The analysis also found that one in four people (26%) who experienced a missed appointment had taken a wasted day off work to wait at home for an engineer.
Mobile phone companies not included in Ofcom proposals
Today's proposals apply to fixed broadband and landline telephone services only.
According to Ofcom's analysis, mobile companies already make "significant compensation payments to customers" and the regulator estimates that less than 1% of mobile customers lose service for more than 24 hours.
Nevertheless, Ofcom has promised to continue to monitor the mobile phone sector.
Have your say in a consultation on the proposals
Ofcom has launched a consultation on the plans, which will be open until 5pm on 5 June 2017. The regulator will then publish its decision statement around the end of the year.
In response to the plans, BT, Sky and Virgin Media have jointly put forward a draft proposal to introduce automatic compensation through a draft voluntary industry code of practice. However, Ofcom does not consider that this proposal sufficiently meets its concerns, when quality of service falls short.
What does Ofcom say?
Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom's consumer group director, said: "When a customer's landline or broadband goes wrong, that is frustrating enough without having to fight tooth and nail to get fair compensation from the provider.
"So we're proposing new rules to force providers to pay money back to customers automatically, whenever repairs or installations don't happen on time, or when people wait in for an engineer who doesn't turn up. This would mean customers are properly compensated, while providers will want to work harder to improve their service."