Broadband companies could be forced to provide compensation for poor service like Utility Companies do, report says

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Broadband companies who fail to provide “adequate” internet access should have to make a statutory compensation of up to £75 per customer, campaign group Which? said yesterday.

Comparing them to utility companies, the campaign group yesterday commented that a gas or electricity company that fails in its coverage is required to pay the penalties, and at this point, broadband companies should be too. MPs came out in support of the call, claiming that the frequency of “mis-sold” broadband speeds was outrageous, and was the next “mis-selling scandal” that we would see. As it stands, advertising rules allow broadband providers to boast of “headline speeds” (or ‘up to’ speeds) as long as those speeds can be achieved by a paltry 10% of that firm’s customers.

The call comes as Ofcom prepares to announce whether BT will be forced to sell off its Openreach broadband company after criticisms over its level of service. This is in comparison to companies such as Eatel that can offer more than just broadband (click here to learn more).

The watchdog will announce this today, as part of a review into competition and investment practices in telecommunications, as well as their quality and availability, and is fuelled by the concerns of 100 MPs that their constituencies are suffering as a result of crawling broadband speeds.

Which? said the public now see “telecoms as an essential service, with our research finding people are twice as likely to cut spending on groceries than on their broadband.

“And yet, there are no statutory or minimum compensation standards for poor service in the telecoms sector.”

Richard Lloyd, the campaign group’s executive director, also said: “We want to see compensation for telecoms failures brought in line with other utilities and consumers’ expectations. Compensation should be simple, easy and fair for consumers.”

Lloyd’s remarks were echoed by Grant Shapps MP, who is now campaigning for improved broadband speeds and better service from BT for all his constituents. Shapps compared the difference between what is advertised and what is provided to the VW emissions scandal, and cuttingly said: “The next battleground is people getting what they pay for. Bizarrely it’s considered completely legitimate to receive half the broadband speed you actually pay for thanks to some small print which says you can’t complain.

“Surely a fair system should be that if the provider does not provide the connection that’s being purchased more than x amount of the time, then they should be forced to give the consumer money back. This is the same system that applies on the railways or with flights where delays are compensated.

“So this Which? report is a good start but it’s the tip of the iceberg. This is a miss selling scandal which is now bigger than PPI or the VW emissions scandal.”

If a customer of a utility company has a problem with their gas or water supply, they are entitled to statutory compensation. If their electricity supply is lost for over 12 hours, a householder could receive up to £75, while homeowners suffering from low water pressure are entitled to £25, and gas customers with a fault in their pipes for more than 24 hours get £30. Broadband going down, however, is handled entirely by the provders themselves – and you can imagine how well they take to compensating customers for their shortcomings.

BT – the biggest provider in the UK and the one under the closest scrutiny – is willing to compensate customers with £10 if an engineer misses an appointment, but is silent on the topic of a loss of service. In these cases, there is no set minimum compensation amount, and the customer has to make a claim against the provider themselves.

If you want to learn more about broadband, this blog post explains broadband internet.

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