More and more people are reliant on their broadband for working at home effectively, especially during the pandemic and lockdowns when the government guidance is to stress the importance of working at home to save lives and the NHS.
This has obviously put a huge strain on the network providers, but is there any recourse if things are go wrong?
This can vary quite substantially depending on the provider and the service you have signed up for. It is also affected by a number of external factors (such as wiring, router, software, etc).
You can easily check your broadband speed on websites such as MoneySuperMarket and Which?
You should then check your contract to see what average speeds have been guaranteed by the provider.
Many of the large broadband providers (including BT, Sky, Talktalk, and Virgin Media) have signed up to Ofcom’s Voluntary Broadband Speed Code of Practise (updated from 1 March 2019).
The benefits under the Code include:
- Provision of expected range for maximum speeds and minimum guaranteed download speed at the point of sale
- Exit from the contract penalty-free if they have not resolved your speed issues (on the basis that your speed remains below a minimum level)
Since 20 March 2020 Ofcom requires signatories to provide a minimum download speed of 10Mbit/s and upload speed of 1 Mbit/s. If not then you have the right to request an upgraded connection from BT or KCOM (regardless of whether you are an existing customer).
The large broadband providers mentioned above may also be signatories to Ofcom’s Automatic Compensation Scheme. This means that from 1 April 2019, consumers will get automatic compensation if there are delayed repairs/start of a service or missed appointments.
The fixed amount of the compensation that Ofcom dictates is set out below:
|PROBLEM||Compensation paid out in the event that…||Amount of compensation|
|Delayed repair following loss of service||Their service stops working and is not fully fixed after two days||£8 for each calendar day that the service is not repaired|
|Missed appointments||An engineer does not turn up for a scheduled appointment or it’s cancelled with less than 24 hrs’ notice||£25 per missed appointment|
|Delays to the start of a new service||Their provider promises to start a new service on a particular date, but fails to do so||£5 for each calendar day of delay, including the missed start date|
Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you are entitled to goods and services which are fit for purpose, of satisfactory quality and delivered as described.
This means that your hardware (router) and software (broadband connection) should work at the speed promised/expected.
Your broadband provider also have contractual duties for the provision of the service you are paying for. If there is a breach of fundamental terms in the contract, this may enable you to cancel the contract.
The terms under any contract also have to be fair according to the Consumer Contracts Regulation 2013.
If you have only just entered into a contract, you will have the standard 14 day cooling off period to terminate.
The first thing to do if something has gone wrong is to make a formal complaint in writing to your broadband provider.
If your provider is also a member of the Internet Service Providers’ Association, they will also need to comply with their code of conduct for complaints procedure.
If you are not happy with the internal complaints process and 8 weeks have lapsed you can then escalate this to an external process.
Under the powers of the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom approves two Alternative Dispute Resolution Schemes which the broadband provider must sign up to;
- the Ombudsman Services: Communications
- or the Internet Services Adjudication Scheme.
If this does not resolve your dispute, then you may need to obtain legal advice if you want to take the matter further to court, which should always be a last resort.
With the growing importance of a reliable broadband service; consumers now having to rely on this for their livelihoods should have to just put up with a bad service. There is mounting rules and regulation as well good practices and governance in place to ensure that broadband companies are providing a good service.