Ofcom call for better broadband speed honesty


Most of us are broadband users and most of us have complained about broadband speed  have we not? Today (6th October 2017) Ofcom proposed to strengthen the current codes to improve speed estimates provided at the point of sale, after sale and in customer contracts and to enhance customers’ right to exit.




The proposals:

• Improve speed information at the point of sale and in contracts, by reflecting the slower speeds people can experience at ‘peak’ times; and by ensuring providers always give a minimum guaranteed speed before sale.
• Strengthen the right to exit if speeds fall below a guaranteed minimum level. Providers would have a limited time to improve speeds before they must let customers walk away penalty-free. For the first time, this right to exit would also apply to contracts that include phone and pay-TV services bought with broadband.
• Increase the number of customers who benefit from the Codes, by expanding their scope to apply to all broadband technologies.

Ofcom has a voluntary code of practice for residential and business broadband providers. This code requires companies to provide estimates of the speeds customers are likely to receive at the point of sale. It also ensures that customers are able to exit their contracts, without penalty, if their speed falls below a minimum level.

Sound good? Hmm not really when you consider that 1) Ofcom says “This does not guarantee compliance but we expect signatories to commit to honour the letter and spirit of the Code. We will monitor compliance with the Code using measures such as ongoing mystery shopping” and 2) only:

  • BT
  • Sky
  • Virgin Media
  • KC
  • EE
  • Talk Talk
  • Vodafone
  • Zen Internet

have signed up to the code and as a Virgin customer who has taken them to the Ombudsman 3 times and won all three times (on different issues) I don’t suppose many people have fared any better with this issue, but anyway I digress…

The consultation is 40 pages long. However, if you go to page 40 you will see the questions which it is asking. The big question should all this be compulsory? Not there. For crying out loud! Expecting telecom companies to be honest in their advertising is not going to be compulsory! The closing date for consultation is the 10th November 2017.

You can still complain though! (I would say that, but you can!)

How to complain about broadband speeds/service interruptions

For more on all things telecoms see All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers

And if you need more information on your consumer rights, advice, templates and general guidance and tips GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

Preventing and complaining about nuisance calls and Ofcom’s record fine

Record fine for firm behind nearly 100 million nuisance calls
A company behind 99.5million nuisance calls has been fined a record £400,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Keurboom Communications Ltd, a company behind 99.5 million nuisance calls has been issued the ICO’s highest ever nuisance calls fine after more than 1,000 people complained about recorded (also known as automated – calls). £400,000

The calls, made over an 18 month period, related to a wide range of subjects including road traffic accident claims and PPI compensation. Some people received repeat calls, sometimes on the same day and during unsociable hours. The company also hid its identity, making it harder for people to complain.

Companies can only make automated marketing calls to people if they have their specific consent. Keurboom did not have consent so was in breach of the law.

Steve Eckerlsey, Head of Enforcement at the ICO said: “Keurboom showed scant regard for the rules, causing upset and distress to people unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of one its 100million calls. “The unprecedented scale of its campaign and Keurboom’s failure to co-operate with our investigation has resulted in the largest fine issued by the Information Commissioner for nuisance calls.”

During the investigation, the ICO issued seven information notices ordering the company, which is registered in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, to provide information to the regulator. When it failed to comply, Keurboom Communications Ltd and its director, Gregory Rudd, were prosecuted and fined at Luton Magistrates’ Court in April 2016.

Following the ICO’s investigation, Keurboom Communications Ltd has been placed in voluntary liquidation. The ICO is committed to recovering the fine by working with the liquidator and insolvency practitioners.

The ICO’s powers will be further strengthened when the government introduces a new law allowing it to fine the company directors behind nuisance call firms. Making directors responsible will stop them avoiding fines by putting their company into liquidation.

In 2016/17, the ICO had its busiest year for nuisance calls issuing 23 companies a total of £1.923 million for nuisance marketing.

The previous record nuisance call fine was in February 2016, when the ICO fined Prodial, a lead generation company, £350,000 for making 46 million nuisance calls.

So what can you do to prevent many of these nuisance calls?
Sign up for TPS. The Telephone Preference Service. You can register both your landline
and mobile numbers. It doesn’t stop them all but it certainly reduces it. As for the ones it
doesn’t stop, report them. It is the law that companies must check names and numbers
against the TPS register so they are breaking the law if you are registered and they
contact you. Allow 28 days for it to be all registered. TPS is not able to enforce the law or
fine, but does pass the information onto the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
If you have consented to receive marketing calls then you will still get these even if you
are registered with TPS. Watch out for comparison and other sites and make sure that
box is unchecked for wanting marketing emails.

For silent and abandoned calls, (frequently caused by automated systems dropping
calls as soon as one is answered) contact Ofcom. Abandoned calls are where you hear a
recorded message and there is a standard form online to report these calls. Ofcom won’t
take action on individual complaints, however, once it gets a large number regarding
the same company it will take action. In 2013 it fined Talk Talk £750,000 for an excessive
number of silent and abandoned calls. So report these kinds of calls. The form is simple
and quick to fill out.

For unwanted marketing calls, contact the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). In
May 2011 it was given powers to impose a fine up to £500,000 on companies who break
the rules on unsolicited texts and phone calls.

It’s payback time for broken broadband

As followers of this blog and my social media know, I always bang on about telecoms being the sector for the worst customer service. One has to really know their rights and know how to complain effectively to get companies to pay out when they should.

Today however, Ofcom announced plans that may make it a little easier for customers. In a scheme similar to delay repay for trains Ofcom proposes to introduce a scheme whereby customers will no longer have to “fight tooth and nail” to get “fair compensation”, Ofcom said. It suggests that the plan (subject to consultation ending 5th June 2017) could benefit up to 2.6 million customers.

The payments would apply whenever services go wrong and are not fixed quickly enough. Slow repairs, missed deadlines and engineers’ visits that fail to happen as promised would all be covered.

This is good news although it will still be a case of making sure people know about the scheme if and when it is introduced. In 2013 Transport Focus found that almost 9 in 10 of passengers eligible for compensation for delays, did not claim. In 2016 it spoke to over 7000 passengers and found that the number claiming compensation has increased to 35 per cent in 2016. The research shows how few people are claiming what they are owed. One wonders if this will be similar.

Commuters always had rights regarding delays and in October 2016 The Consumer Rights Act 2015 brought rail into line with other service providers regarding providing services with reasonable skill and care. It really is a case of companies doing more to ensure that people know their rights.

To back up my point Ofcom said that there were 7.2 million instances that would be subject to compensation under its new proposals every year but that currently, only 1.1 million of these attracted payments. Given my regular complaining to Virgin Media over the years I am not surprised. I know my rights, I know how to complain effectively but still I meet continued bad service and fob offs. Having taken it to CISAS twice (and won) and gained redress more times than I can remember I can say with absolutely assurance that it has never been easy and always protracted with several emails. Most people a) don’t know their legal right and b) even if they do would understandably give up.

In response to the plan, BT, Sky and Virgin Media have issued their own draft proposal for automatic compensation through a voluntary code of practice. A Virgin Media spokesperson said: “It’s important that customers are treated fairly when services can’t be delivered, but this is best achieved through a robust industry-led approach.

“The industry is working together on ambitious reforms that would incentivise communications providers to compete to provide customers with a better service, while also setting minimum standards that providers would have to meet.”

Cynically, and with a lot of experience of Virgin Media, I would say that’s another way of saying “Our service is rubbish and we aint gonna improve it until we are forced to do it the same as everyone else. Whilst we can get away with not paying out we will.”

Ofcom proposes  a  scale of charges:

  • £10 for each calendar day that the service is not repaired
  • £30 for any time that an engineer fails to turn up for a scheduled appointment, or that it is cancelled with less than 24 hours’ notice
  • £6 for each calendar day of delay at the start of a new service, including the missed start date.

Ofcom hopes that this will mean consumers will not have to go through a lengthy claims process. However, in the meantime you ARE still legally entitled to redress for the examples above and more. See All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers for more.

See 20 Top Tips for Complaining and How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! for information, tips, advice and templates for complaining effectively to telecoms and other sectors.



Plusnet gets a “minus” – and a big fine – for incorrect billing

Plusnet has become the latest telecom provider to be fined by the regulator Ofcom. The broadband and phone provider, owned by BT, has been fined £880,000 for billing former customers. It is the third provider in less than 6 months to be fined by Ofcom.

In October 2016 Vodafone was fined £4.6m for breaches of consumer protection laws and in January 2017 EE was fined approximately £2.7m for incorrect billing.

Plusnet faces a fine of £880,000 imposed by Ofcom for continuing to bill more than a thousand former customers for landline and broadband services. The case involves more than 1,000 ex-customers who were overcharged a total of more than £500,000.

Ofcom says in its press release:

“The penalty is the result of an investigation, which found that the telecoms company broke a fundamental billing rule by continuing to charge a group of customers for landline or broadband, after they had cancelled their service.

Once a customer cancels his or her home phone or broadband service, providers’ billing systems must recognise that the line is ‘ceased’. In this case, an error in Plusnet’s billing system meant that cancelled lines were still recognised as ‘live’.As a result, 1,025 customers who had cancelled either their landline or broadband service continued to be billed, meaning they were overcharged by more than £500,000 in total.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said: “There can be no margin for error, and no excuses, when it comes to billing customers correctly.”

“This fine should serve as a reminder to telecoms companies that they must adhere to Ofcom’s billing rules at all times, or face the consequences.””

Ofcom says that Plusnet has attempted to refund all affected ex-customers. It has so far refunded 356 customers a total of £212,140, which included interest at a rate of 4% for each customer. Any remaining money, from former customers who could not be reached, has been donated to a dozen local charities. Plusnet has also clarified to Ofcom the steps it has taken to prevent any future billing errors of this kind.

Ofcom says that the fine, which must be paid to Ofcom within 20 working days, will be passed on to HM Treasury.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, telecoms really are the worst sector for customer service. It really needs a company to pull out all the stops and do things differently, risk not making any money for a while and then watch everyone flock to them for the customer service.

Useful information
Ofcom does not investigate individual claims. If you have a complaint about a telecom provider whether broadband, landline or mobile, see All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers which provides information and how to complain effectively to telecom providers.

See How to Complain; The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! for tips, advice, consumer laws and templates for complaining effectively.

EEnormous bills, Ofcom fine and how to complain about incorrect bills

Today, Ofcom, the telecommunications regulator, fined EE around £2,700,000 for overcharging its customers

The Ofcom investigation concluded that EE made fundamental billing mistakes. It cannot investigate individual complaints. However, you can inform them of problems and if a significant number of people do this regarding the issue then it can investigate and take action. So whilst Ofcom investigates large scale issues what should you do if your ‘phone bill is wrong?

Consumer expert Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! provides us with her top tips:

  • Check your bill! It may seem obvious but most of us just pay by direct debit and forget all about it. This would have been the case for many of over 32,145 EE customers who were charged £1.20 a minute instead of 19p a minute when phoning 150 (customer services) in the EU. There are still 60,000 affected EE customers who have not been traced. Ofcom has instructed EE to continue attempts to trace them. So if you are an EE customer and you phoned 150 from within the EU between 1 July 2014 and 20 July 2015,check your bill and contact EE!
  • Act quickly in writing. You can call but you won’t have a record or evidence of what they have said they will do and laws on using this evidence in court are not clear. Likewise, unless they give their permission for you to do this you won’t be able to use it in court should you need to do this. You can use online chat if available. Don’t trust that this will be emailed to you even if they say it will be! Why you should write not ‘phone to complain effectively for more.
  • Don’t cancel direct debits. Tempting as it may be to do this, don’t! It will confuse the issue and may affect your credit rating.
  • Escalate! If contacting customer services doesn’t get a satisfactory response, write to the CEO (contact details on ceoemail.com. The CEO is unlikely to respond in person but you should get his/her team responding on their behalf. If still not satisfied ask for a deadlock letter (you don’t need to do this if more than 8 weeks has passed since your initial complaint) and take the matter to the Ombudsman. CISAS or Ombudsman Services, depending which the company is a member. It is free to the customer to do this.
  • Know your rights! Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you are entitled to receive services that are carried out with “reasonable skill and care” and therefore if the company messes up your bills this is not “reasonable skill and care”. The company must put you back into the position you were in before the mistakes arose. If mistakes are made by the company then you can assert that under the company is in breach of contract so therefore if you want you can terminate early without paying any penalty. If the company’s mistakes have caused you to incur overdraft charges, then these too must be refunded.

In 2016 Ombudsman Services investigated 42,963 complaints about communications providers. 39% were billing complaints (this does not exclusively mean ‘wrong bills’ – it encompasses all billing complaints).

All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers for links to various posts regarding all sorts of issues regarding your telecom provider.

Top 20 Tips for complaining effectively

GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

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