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.

 

 

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