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Broadband customers left out of pocket while suppliers are compensated

4 December 2016

Citizens Advice says Digital Economy Bill needs to deliver automatic compensation for delays

Citizens Advice has branded the compensation system in the broadband market 'deeply unfair' as customers have to fight for a payout whereas suppliers are given it automatically.

Suppliers are typically paid compensation by Openreach for each day that there is a delay fixing a landline fault or setting up a new broadband or landline connection.  But customers who have been inconvenienced can get nothing to make up for their losses.  

Just over 20% of repairs (364,000) and 6% (281,000) of the installations carried out by Openreach - which runs the UK’s telecoms infrastructure - were not completed on time between April and September. This means each week an average of 14,000 consumers and small businesses waited longer than they should for broadband and phone line repairs and a further 11,000 experienced late installations.

The Digital Economy Bill, which had its report stage in the House of Commons on Monday 28 November, has a clause giving Ofcom the power to introduce automatic compensation for consumers who receive a poor standard of service from their broadband provider.

Citizens Advice supports this change in the law and is calling for MPs to make sure customers get automatic compensation for delays as suppliers do.

The national charity also wants Ofcom to set clear standards on when consumers would be entitled to compensation because of delays and how much they would get. This could work similarly to the £75 compensation people get from their energy company for delays  when their electricity is not up and running again 12 hours after a power cut.

New analysis of 1,000 broadband problems reported to Citizens Advice reveals people are having to repeatedly negotiate with providers to get engineers out or receive any kind of financial compensation.

Citizens Advice’s previous research has found that the time people spend resolving telephone, TV and internet problems costs them as much as £1.5billion a year - more than with any other product or service. This includes £874 million in earnings people lost whilst trying to get their problem resolved.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“It is deeply unfair that broadband suppliers are automatically compensated but customers have to fight for every penny.

“Companies are paid every time a broadband or landline repair or installation is delayed. But customers who bear the brunt of these problems have to fight for compensation from their broadband company - and may not get any.

“When installations or repairs are delayed this can leave broadband customers without an internet connection for days. On top of the hassle and frustration of trying to rearrange the call-out, not having a working broadband connection can make it harder for people to complete important everyday tasks like applying for jobs, shopping online, and even running their business.

“The Digital Economy Bill gives MPs the opportunity to make sure broadband customers hit by delays get compensation automatically instead of having to negotiate and fight for it. It is important that clear standards are set for this compensation so people know exactly when they are eligible and how much they can claim.”

Notes to editors

  1. Openreach develops and maintains broadband and landline connections for at least 72% of the market. Figures for numbers of repairs and installations between April and September have been provided by Openreach and reflect only their market share. Infrastructure for around 20% of the market is run by Virgin Media, which is not included in the analysis.
  2. Openreach installed approximately 4.46 million new connections and made approximately 1.78 million repairs to broadband and landline connections and between April and September.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.