Broadband and landline customers in the UK could now be entitled to automatic compensation when things go wrong under new Ofcom rules.
The regulatory authority has found that over five million consumers lose their landline or broadband connection every year, almost 250,000 engineer appointments are missed or delayed and over one million installations are delayed.
However, due to the often lengthy process required for customers to receive compensation,just one in seven broadband or phone customers who have experienced such problems are successfully reimbursed.
Under new Ofcom broadband compensation rules, companies that have signed up will have to automatically reimburse customers if they have problems with their broadband or phone line at home which are not fixed promptly; £5 for each day the line is not repaired, £25 for ever missed appointment and £5 for every day the start of a new service is delayed.
As a result, customers could receive an estimated £142m in payments – around nine times the amount they currently receive, now that rules which have been in the works for over two years come into force.
It is hoped that increased regulation will be an incentive for companies to ensure better customer service.
The companies that have signed up to the Ofcom broadband compensation scheme
BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Zen Internet had already signed up to the scheme, meaning 95% of broadband customers are covered. According to the BBC, an Ofcom spokesperson said that it would “step in and take action” if companies did not comply. However, customers for companies that have not signed up to the scheme are not eligible.
This is part of the regulator’s Fairness for Customers scheme, designed to make telecoms contracts fairer for customers. As well as today’s new regulations, the scheme also includes plans to make it easier to switch mobile contracts, a price cap on directory inquiry services, and plans to require companies to tell customers when their contracts are coming to an end.
The customer service of some UK telecoms giants has faced recent criticism, with research by Which? revealing that Virgin is the worst offender, with one in six Virgin customers left with no connection for long periods of time. In Which?’s recent Broadband Satisfaction survey, Sky and TalkTalk also ranked badly for their customer service.
Some companies have also come under fire for not rewarding loyal customers, with research by Which? indicating that loyal customers could be paying an average of 15% more than new customers.
Sharon White, Ofcom Chief Executive believes the new Ofcom broadband compensation will mean customers are not kept waiting for problems to be fixed:
“We think it’s unacceptable that people should be kept waiting for a new line, or a fault to be fixed.
“These new protections mean phone and broadband firms will want to avoid problems occurring in the first place. But if they fall short, customers must be treated fairly and given money back, without having to ask for it.”