When an essential service goes wrong, customers want any sanctions to have proper teeth, so they are enforceable.
That’s why I was encouraged to hear that OFCOM – the body which regulates telecommunications – has set out proposals to make sure that phone and broadband providers should pay automatic compensation when things go wrong. Customers would be compensated if repairs are not carried out in a timely fashion or when engineers do not turn up for appointments. There would also be compensation if a customer signs up for a new service and it does not start operating when the company said it would.
It is a large scale situation because OFCOM tell me that there are 7.2 million occasions when landline or broadband customers suffer delayed repairs, missed appointments or failure to install new services as arranged. At the moment, about 1.1 million customers receive financial compensation in these circumstances, with the companies paying out £16.3 million.
The new proposals would cover up to 2.6 million additional customers and it is estimated that the compensation involved would be up to £185 million.
About one-third of our small and medium sized enterprises opt for residential landline and broadband services and they would also be covered by the compensation arrangements. OFCOM have also set out what the level of compensation would be. Customers would be recompensed through either a cash payment or a credit on the bill from the service provider. The proposed levels are: £10 for each calendar day that the service is not repaired; £30 for each missed appointment; and £6 per calendar day (including the start date) that a new service does not materialise.
As customers we are familiar with the utility providers – water, electricity and gas – operating this kind of automatic compensation scheme when services fail. I think that OFCOM’s proposals recognise that our landline and broadband services are the “new utilities”, because so many services depend on customers having a reliable service. The OFCOM consultation is in progress until 5th June and then there should be a statement at the end of 2017 about this.
Meanwhile, along with Buckinghamshire County Council, I am well aware that there are still “not spots” for the broadband service and the campaign to get good coverage continues!