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Broadband set-up delays hit 1 in 3 moving house

1 September 2017

Over 1 in 3 people who move house experience an unexpected delay in getting their broadband working - with some facing a delay of more than 2 weeks, new research from Citizens Advice finds.

A survey carried out for the national charity reveals that people moving into a new home are often left without a working internet connection for weeks after the date their provider said this would be set up. Others report having to wait at home for engineers on multiple occasions or are left with a slow or intermittent connection.

The most common broadband problems experienced by people who transferred or setup a new service when they last moved house are the connection being slow or unreliable when initiated (15%), engineers having to make multiple visits (11%) and engineers’ appointments being rescheduled (9%).

Having no internet connection or a poor one can be a particular problem when you move into a new home - making it a lot more difficult to do things like change the address for your household bills.

Cases reported to Citizens Advice reveal the extent of the broadband woes people face when moving house.

One woman in the North East had to wait 5 weeks to get her internet set up after moving to a new house. Her provider failed to send engineers to fix the problem on multiple occasions, telling her they would have get internet working within deadlines that came and went. She had to use her new neighbours’ computer for important tasks like her internet banking, and the lack of internet made it much for more difficult for her to arrange delivery of specialist equipment for a disabled relative.

Some people who decided to switch providers because they had no broadband for weeks after moving were also told that they would have to pay exit fees of hundreds of pounds to switch to a different service.

One customer who had moved house didn’t have an internet connection for 3 weeks even though she had paid £82 upfront for the installation and first month of fibre broadband and had called her provider repeatedly about the problem. When she asked to cancel the contract she was told that as the 14 day cancellation period had passed she would have to pay an exit fee of over £200.

The survey of people moving house, carried out by YouGov, also found that some people (8%) trying to set up their broadband in their new home received a router that did not work properly, and 5% had not received one at all.

The findings come after the government last month launched its £400m Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund to boost investment in "full-fibre" broadband that can offer speeds of up to 1Gbps to households and businesses. The telecoms infrastructure business Openreach has said it believes 2 million premises will have access to full fibre broadband by the end of 2020.

Citizens Advice is calling for the telecoms regulator Ofcom to put in place the mandatory scheme it proposed earlier this year for automatically compensating people affected by delayed set ups or repairs to their broadband or landline.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“People paying to have their broadband set-up all too often face big set-backs.

“Moving house can be a difficult and stressful experience and delays in getting the internet can make this worse, if providers fail to keep to promised dates or engineering visits don’t materialise. Broadband is now such an essential service that people moving house will often rely on it for crucial tasks, like changing their address for household bills or ordering essentials.

“It is fundamentally unfair that in some cases customers are paying for a service they don’t receive for weeks or even months at a time after moving. Ofcom has rightly proposed a scheme that would automatically compensate customers who face delays or missed appointments, regardless of their provider - but this is now at risk of being watered down by a rival industry proposal that would be voluntary and lower the amount paid out by at least £52 million.

“To hold providers to account for breaking promises to their customers, the regulator should move forward with its mandatory automatic compensation scheme. This would make it clear to people what they are entitled to when they get poor service and put an end to customers having to negotiate how much they get back for their wasted time.”

Citizens Advice is also calling for broadband providers to make sure they do not charge exit fees to customers who experience unreasonable delays - such as weeks without an internet connection - or who move to an area where they can’t receive the same service.

The automatic compensation scheme proposed by Ofcom would work similarly to schemes in the energy and water industry. This would mean that regardless of their broadband provider, consumers would get a set amount of compensation each day past the date that the provider said the broadband or landline would be set up or repaired, as well as for each missed appointment with an engineer.  

Analysis by Citizens Advice published last week (21 August) revealed that a rival voluntary scheme proposed by some of the largest internet providers, would likely leave consumers at least £52 million worse off than the mandatory scheme proposed by Ofcom.

The difference between the Ofcom and the industry schemes for each type of compensation are:

Loss of service

Delayed installation

Missed appointment

Proposed industry payment (June 2017)

£7 per calendar day for loss of service beyond two working days

£4 per calendar day (only payable automatically if customer subsequently activates)

£20 for a missed
appointment slot or cancellation with less than 24 hours

Ofcom payment

£10 per calendar day beyond two working days after the provider becomes
aware of the loss

£6 per calendar day beyond the date that the provider has committed to in a written form

£30 for a missed
or cancellation with less than 24 hours

People sought Citizens Advice’s help with 7,500 problems with their internet service providers and 3,500 problems with landline telephone services in the year between July 2016 and June 2017.

Previous analysis of 1,000 cases reported to the Citizens Advice consumer service between August 2016 and May 2017 indicates that 18% of the consumers who call the helpline with broadband problems would be eligible to receive a payment under Ofcom’s proposed scheme.

Notes to editors

  1. Citizens Advice commissioned YouGov to carry out research on people moving house. The survey collected a total of 2,009 interviews among those who had moved to a new address within the last 2 years, sourced from the YouGov research panel.. The survey was carried out online between 6th March to the 15th March 2017. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+). Prior to the main fieldwork, a face to face survey was used to ascertain the demographic breakdown of those who have moved within the last two years. This information has been used to weight the results of the main survey to ensure that they are representative of this population based on housing tenure, age, gender, social grade and region.
  2. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  3. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  4. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
  5. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
  6. Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.
  7. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.