Starting today, broadband and landline customers will be entitled to automatic compensation if they suffer a loss of service, a missed engineer appointment or a delayed installation.
Ofcom estimates there are 7.2 million service quality failures each year. Five million of these involve a loss of service, a million are delayed installations and 250,000 are delayed or missed engineer appointments.
However, because those affected need to apply for compensation, just one in seven of these events are reported. Ofcom says this means significant amounts are unclaimed and that the new rules will benefit consumers to the tune of £142 million.
“We think it’s unacceptable that people should be kept waiting for a new line, or a fault to be fixed,” said Ofcom CEO Sharon White. ““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.
“We welcome the companies’ commitment to this scheme, which acts as a strong incentive to improve service for customers.”
BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin, and Zen Internet had already volunteered for the scheme and will start dishing out automatic compensation immediately. EE, Hyperoptic, Plusnet and Vodafone are new signatories and will follow suit either later this year or early 2020.
What it does mean is that 95 per cent of consumer broadband customers are covered.
According to research from consumer watchdog Which?, Virgin Media is the worst for service outages with 17 per cent of customers affected, more than BT (8 per cent), Sky (8 per cent) and TalkTalk (10 per cent).
Vodafone has the worst installation delays with 16 per cent stating they had waited for weeks to get their service up and running, while 7 per cent of SSE Telecom (which has not signed up for the scheme) customers had a long wait for an engineer visit.
“Broadband customers who suffer slow repairs, missed appointments and delayed installations have up until now had to jump through hoops to get compensation, so it is encouraging that some will now be refunded automatically,” said Natalie Hitchens, head of home products and services at Which?
“However, for consumers to truly feel the benefit of this scheme, broadband providers must improve their service overall. If not, we expect the regulator to show its teeth and take stronger action.”
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