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Broadband and landline customers will get money back from their providers when things go wrong without having to claim, Ofcom says.
Telecoms companies do not always provide the standard of service customers expect, and customers are not always adequately compensated when service falls short.
So Ofcom set out plans of people to be compensated automatically by providers for slow repairs, missed appointments and delayed installations. This means credit on the customer’s account without having to ask.
As a result of Ofcom’s intervention, BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Zen Internet have agreed to introduce automatic compensation, which will reflect the harm consumers suffer when things go wrong.
Currently, compensation is paid out in around one in seven cases of landline or broadband customers suffering slow repairs, delayed installations or missed engineer appointments; and even then, only in small amounts.
Launching the first ever automatic compensation scheme for telecoms customers will be complex, and requires changes to providers’ billing systems, online accounts and call centres.
So there will be a 15-month implementation period before it comes into effect to ensure a smooth introduction. Consumes currently experiencing problems can find advice on Ofcom’s website on what to do.
Automatic compensation is one of several areas where Ofcom is working to protect telecoms customers. These include ensuring lower charges for landline customers; better information on broadband speeds before entering a contact; detailed information on how different providers perform; and fining companies for poor behaviour.
Ofcom is also introducing new rules to ensure all small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are given clearer, more detailed information up front about what service quality to expect - including whether they can claim compensation when problems occur.
Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s consumer group director, said: “Waiting too long for your landline or broadband to be fixed is frustrating enough, without having to fight for compensation.
“So, providers will have to pay money back automatically, whenever repairs or installations don’t happen on time, or an engineer doesn’t turn up. People will get the money they deserve, while providers will want to work harder to improve their service.”
Alex Neill, managing director of home services, Which?, said: “We are pleased that compensation for poor broadband is going to become automatic, as it is now such an essential part of all of our everyday lives.
“For all consumers to get what they're entitled to, it’s vital that all providers play fair and sign up to this scheme.”