Which? calls for better compensation for telecoms customers

Ahead of tomorrow’s watershed review of the telecoms sector, Which? is calling on the regulator to make sure consumers are properly compensated when things go wrong.

Consumers now view telecoms as an essential service, with Which? research finding people are twice as likely to say they were planning to reduce spending over the next few months on groceries (12%) than they were on broadband (6%).

However, the telecoms sector has no statutory or minimum compensation standards for poor service and the compensation schemes that do exist are unclear and inadequate.

Compensation schemes in other utilities are more transparent. If water, gas or electricity customers experience service problems they are entitled to statutory compensation.

For low water pressure a customer can receive £25 in compensation and if there is a fault to a gas pipeline that is not restored in 24 hours, then your supplier must pay out £30. Similarly, if electricity supply is cut off for over 12 hours then customers could receive a payment of £75.

Which? wants to see the introduction of a statutory scheme in telecoms that automatically offers compensation, in line with consumers’ expectations, when things go wrong.

Which? also wants Ofcom to ensure that the telecoms ombudsman service publishes data on compensation levels and sets out what has been paid for service failures.

With Ofcom about to report on its first review of the communications sector in 10 years, Which? believes this is an opportunity to introduce a number of additional changes that will have a positive impact for consumers. These include:

  • Improved Openreach performance: Whether structurally separated or not, Openreach must be more responsive to consumers rather than just meet minimum standards
  • Clearer pricing and information: An obligation on telecoms providers to demonstrate that consumers find their pricing and details of their services clear and fair
  • Telecom mergers: With the merger of BT and EE approved, and the merger of Three and O2 being considered, there is a significant risk that mergers between the four UK network operators could result in poor outcomes for UK consumers. Ofcom must make sure that how it regulates takes this into account and reduces the impact on consumers

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director 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.

“In the forthcoming Digital Communications Review Ofcom has a real opportunity to ensure the telecoms sector works better for consumers.”


Notes to Editors

  1. The report on the Digital Communications Review – expected before the end of February – will be a watershed moment for the telecoms market.  Which? is pressing Ofcom to set out next steps towards a compensation regime that is fit for purpose and reflects the expectations of mobile and broadband consumers.
  2. Which? also want the DCR report to address:
  • Easier switching: Barriers to switching must be removed and better end of contract information delivered.
  • Transparent information on the availability of services: Telecoms advertising and information should fairly reflect the services sold, particularly in geographic areas that experience poorer services.
  • Price comparison websites: Ofcom should tackle the difficulty that consumers face in comparing information on the mobile and broadband packages available to them.
  1. For information on how to claim compensation after a loss of broadband service: http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/problem/my-broadband-service-is-often-interrupted-what-can-i-do
  2. Populus on behalf of Which? surveyed a representative sample of 2,090 UK adults for the November wave of the Which? Consumer Insight Tracker.  Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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