Can you get compensation when your broadband or landline provider lets you down?
Every year millions of telecoms customers suffer delayed repairs, missed appointments or long waits for a new service to be installed.
Telecoms watchdog Ofcom says 1.1m of these cases result in compensation pay outs of £16.3m.
But that figure could go through the roof under new proposals.
Ofcom plans to force all providers to compensate automatically for slow repairs, missed deadlines and appointments.
It’s estimated that up to £185m in extra compensation would be paid out each year, which indicates the scale of the problem.
Ofcom would decide the level of compensation according to how much the consumer had been inconvenienced or was out of pocket.
It’s still consulting, though, before setting up new rules.
What about today?
Ofcom analysis shows that each year:
* 7 million consumers suffer a loss of landline or broadband service.
* Engineers don’t turn up as arranged for some 250,000 appointments.
* 3m people suffered a delay in having landlines and broadband services installed.
* One in four people who experienced a missed appointment had taken valuable time off work to wait for the engineer.
The problem now is that, as Ofcom says, compensation payments – if they happen at all – vary wildly, and they’re paid out in only around 15% of complaints cases.
Missed engineer appointments
If an engineer is scheduled to come to your home to fix broadband or your phone they will almost always be from BT’s Openreach who maintain the hardware associated with these services.
BT will pay a measly £10 for each missed appointment.
Lack of service
All reputable providers will have a scheme whereby they will compensate you if they are not providing a service as they are contracted to do.
But this is not really compensation, just a refund, and is worked out by dividing the yearly cost of the service and taking money off your bill for each day you were without it.
Internal complaints procedure
What you can get paid and perhaps what you may get on top of a simple refund will depend on how responsive the provider’s complaints department is.
Either way, you will have to proceed by making a complaint.
You can make the case, too, that you have suffered actual financial loss – but bear in mind that, as things stand, the law – which would ultimately decide such a claim won’t normally order compensation for mere inconvenience. You have to have suffered a loss.
BT’s internal process will compensate up to £1,000 per residential line, IF you can show financial loss.
If you find that you go through your provider’s normal channels and cannot get satisfaction, you will need to ask for a ‘deadlock letter’. This is vital because it will outline all the measures taken by the provider to resolve the issue.
After that, you can make a challenge either via dispute resolution or court action.
Fundamentally, the service you are provided with (or not provided with), comes under the Supply of Goods and Services Act, and you can’t be charged for what is not provided.
Step by step
The bottom line is that every service provider has different arrangements – for example, those of BT above. And TalkTalk has an automatic way of calculating compensation simply based on the amount of time service has not been provided.
But step one is to contact your provider and ask for compensation.
Can you cancel?
This is a tricky area. You can certainly cancel your contract, but the question is, will you have to pay?
There is no way around the fact that this will depend on the wording of the contract and whether you can argue, successfully, that the provider has breached their contract with you.
What if you get nowhere?
It’s important to exhaust your provider’s complaints procedure before you decide they are not dealing fairly with you.
But, you can take matters further, as all providers have to sign up to one of two Alternative Dispute Resolution Schemes (ADRs): Ombudsman Services: Communications or Communications and Internet Services Adjustment Scheme.
These are the places to take your complaint if you feel you’re getting nowhere with your request for compensation.
Even after this stage, you are still entitled to take a provider to court, which doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it sounds. However, most people do accept the decision of an ADR and a service provider is bound by it.
If you do decide to take the court path, bear in mind that a court will only decide on a specific financial claim that you can show is what you have lost.
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