back to article Ofcom wants automatic compensation for the people when ISPs fail

Ofcom has begun consulting on the UK government's desire to compensate consumers and SMEs when telco companies fail, as set out in the Digital Economy Bill, even though the Bill hasn't reached the Royal Assent stage yet. Ofcom interprets the crowd-pleasing gesture as involving automatic compensation for delayed services, …

  1. Chewi
    Thumb Down

    Not thought though

    As usual, this sounds like it hasn't been thought through. Most ISPs are at the mercy of BT, who are notorious for delays, and worse still, charge the ISP for fixing faults instead of compensating them! This just makes a bad situation even worse.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Not thought though

      So the ISP passes this cost onto Openreach.


      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Not thought though

        >So the ISP passes this cost onto Openreach.

        Which with Sky and TalkTalk is likely to be 100% of the time, since they will want to keep things in their organisations simple - let BT/OR waste time and incur cost searching for a non-existent fault in their infrastructure, when the fault all along was in the Sky/ISP infrastructure...

  2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

    When I switched to BT just over a year ago, the call centre staff repeatedly lied that my installation had been booked. They scheduled switching over my broadband but didn't bother to arrange to connect me.

    Eventually I got an English bloke who took over my account, told me to ignore everything i'd been told. I was without internet for 2 frigging weeks.

    £6/day is nowhere near enough for that sort of thing. If it's their fault you lose connectivity during a switchover it should cost them £100/day. That should focus minds.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "£6/day is nowhere near enough for that sort of thing. If it's their fault you lose connectivity during a switchover it should cost them £100/day. "

      For a service that's costing you a tenner a month?

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Yes. I'm not arguing that they should pay £100/day to the customer - just that it should cost them £100/day. Perhaps give it to the government or a charity.

        It's not that they charged £10/month or whatever, it's that they disconnected me from my previous supplier without giving me a replacement service.

  3. Your alien overlord - fear me

    If they have to pay £6/day for missing installations then surely they will just add a month on to however long it would have taken them to cover their arses?

    1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

      Nonsense, they will pay "up to £6."

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Yamas

    Go, charge 'em high

    I switched to Sky broadband about a couple of months ago, really I should have stuck with BT (for once!). It all started well, I had the advertised mb/s for normal use (I didn't go for the extra fast option as I live on my own), but a fortnight ago I noticed that connecting to the internet was becoming slower, pages will load slower I could literally see images being loaded, reminiscent of the Hayes modem age, the router would drop connection now and then, downloading a mere 50MB takes now about 4-5 minutes, I don't live in rural area ffs! At some occasion it's so bad I can't rely on my connection and have to resort to using my 4g connection on my smartphone. I am contemplating cancelling my contract with them and have been gathering evidences of their poor services as I don't want to pay extra charge for terminating the contract early, the suckers have not fulfilled their part of the contract. So yes I have no sympathy for such ISPs, charge them thru the nose if you must, whether they rely on BT or not, someone down the chain must be financially punished!

    1. Solarflare

      Re: Go, charge 'em high

      I will admit that that sounds pretty poor, but considering you say this started a fortnight ago (and playing devil's advocate) have you tried actually contacting them to see if they can fix the problem?

    2. IsJustabloke

      Re: Go, charge 'em high

      I decided to give Sky Fibre ago when I was looking for a new BB supplier. I had slower, less reliable connections from their "Superfast Fibre" than I ever had under ADSL, they made the mistake of making a change such that it gave me an early out of my year long contract and I kicked them so far into touch I'm not sure they've landed yet. I went back ADSL via Plusnet and my BB has been rock solid ever since.

      1. David Hicklin

        Re: Go, charge 'em high

        As always YMMV - I have been with Sky Fibre for 4 years now and have only had a few minor interruptions, certainly no worse or better than BT and Virgin before them.

        Speed has been rock solid at all times.

  5. Refugee from Windows

    Don't hold your breath

    What will no doubt happen is that they'll make you jump through loads of hoops just to report a problem, and never give you a firm date for an installation or changeover. We'll be able to go back to pre BT days, three month waiting list for a line, and then telling you it's your equipment or internal connection that's the problem (and they'd charge you for a callout) just to cover their rear by not starting the "waiting repair" clock.

    Really the one that would hurt is being compensated for not being provided with the contracted service, you know the one ... X MB broadband promise but only X/3 MB delivered which seems to be about what you actually get.

    Says someone who is not in an FTTC area but they keep promising you the moon on a stick.

  6. Blitheringeejit

    OfCOM OfTarget again

    If this applies to fixed broadband and landline telephone services only, then it's not about ISPs - it's about Openreach. ISPs (including BT Retail) order installations from Openreach, via Openreach's work management system, and Openreach frequently fail to show up at the appointed time/day. You can't hold ISPs responsible or penalise them for Openreach's failures.

    It's depressing that policy makers, and especially OfCOM, seem to be endlessly unable to take into account how the infrastructure and workflow actually operates when making stupid STBDS policies.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: OfCOM OfTarget again

      You can't hold ISPs responsible or penalise them for Openreach's failures.

      And you can't hold BT Openreach responsible for when Sky's LLU and backhaul network goes down.

      In my area a couple of years back, Sky's regional POP went up in flames, which as Sky hadn't implemented any redundancy meant their subscribers were left without broadband for quite a long time...

  7. Blotto Silver badge

    Turn your router off. If it still takes ages to download it's because your connected to someone else's access point. Delete all the old wifi access points on your system boot your router and ensure your connected to your own access point.

  8. SimonF

    This time next year Rodney...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Won't hold my breath if Ofgem is anything to go by.

    Coop Energy rolled out a new billing system in March 2015. It was so bad, in every aspect, that rather than wait the 8 weeks to make a formal complaint, I contacted ofgem immediately and said, this is serious it needs to be dealt with immediately, their systems are no fit for purpose. (It was genuinely were the worst billing system I'd ever seen)

    I then proceeded to follow through with two complaints, one in the normal manner via the Energy Ombudsman, and a second formal complaint against Ofgem themselves for failing to take action against Coop Energy.

    Ofgem were the most obstructive organisation I have ever dealt with, blocking me at every stage. They delayed their replies until the very last day. Ofgem also have 20 working days to respond, so in effect 4 weeks per reply. This went on for months until it was finally stalemated with the regulator. By then I'd also made a complaint via the Energy Ombudsman.

    It took Ofgem 18 months after this date to finally issue a public announcement that Coop Energy had been made to pay compensation to customers due to poor billing. It amounted to an average of £7 per customer for 18 months of upheaval. No fine was issued against CoopEnergy, and more interesting, I never received a Penny (having left long before).

    CoopEnergy's final bill was incorrect by £155 in their favour, which I had to do my own calculations to correct and show them their mistakes.

    Ofgem had no checks in place to make sure Coop Energy actually compensated customers, let alone customers that had made a complaint to the Energy Ombudsman.

    Ofgem / Ofcom are not fit for purpose.

  10. flibble

    Ofcom really seem to have missed the mark on this one.

    The ISPs are at the mercy of either BT Wholesale or OpenReach, and there is nothing in this proposal that will force those two companies (both of whom have a pretty solid monopoly) to change their behaviour or actually allow the ISPs to negotiate fair contracts.

    Yes, there's the occasional case where the ISP themselves make a mess of things, but compared to the mess OpenReach make it's incomparable (not to mention the amount OpenReach/Wholesale charge for fixing faults that should not even be chargeable).

    The best laugh is the £30 compensation for missed appointments. Even if you're just on the living wage, a day's holiday essentially has a cash cost to you of over £60, and an actual value of far more. Conversely, if BT OpenReach turn up and you've popped out, they charge you/the ISP (IIRC) £130+VAT. That kind of asymmetry is a sure sign of an abusive and unfair monopoly.

    (Yes, I've responded to the consolation to say this. I'd implore everyone else to do so too.)

    1. Annihilator Silver badge

      And under these rules, they'll now just lie and say they attended the appointment but you weren't in.

  11. Roland6 Silver badge

    What about the warranty?

    Whilst penalties for missed appointments etc. may do some good, what is also needed is some warranty, so if a fault is 'fixed' and the service faults again within 30 days from the date of the last fix (ie. a rolling 30 day warranty) then additional charges should apply. This would help to guard against temporary fixes that merely reset the clock.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about the warranty?

      Difficult to enforce. BT / Openreach would just bamboozle, say the fault is something different in the network, even though the fault appears the same. You and I might know it isn't likely to be different, but the average BT Customer? They'd just accept what the Engineer/BT told them.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: What about the warranty?

        >Difficult to enforce.

        That is both the case currently and is also going to be the case with the fines. I can expect Sky to bamboozle, say the fault is with BT/OR when in fact it is in their LLU and/or backhaul...

        Given as you indicate, many people think that Sky broadband, for example, is just BT broadband repackaged, I suspect Sky (and TalkTalk) have been taking advantage of this misunderstanding to point the finger at BT/OR - ie. promote it's agenda of crippling competition by any means available to it, when in fact the problem lies within their own organisation...

  12. Denshi

    It sounds like OfCom's actual intent is to use charges as a stick to try and make ISPs lean on Openreach do better at attending appointments - which is fine in principal, although it's probably more effective to just lean on Openreach directly.

    But it fails because all it will do is drive your your ISP will to hedge their risk. Effectively you'll get compulsory insurance against faults bundled into your bill - say an extra £5 on install costs and £1 on your monthly bill - so that if the ISP has to pay out then it comes from the extra that everyone has paid already.

    At the end of the day, the payout money has to come from somewhere, it can't be miracled into existence. And all the money that flows into a business comes from it's customers, so by definition any payouts will come from the customers.

    It's all smoke and mirrors, pay no attention to the increase in your bill, focus on the big payout, don't stop and realise that nothing has actually changed and nothing is better because here's a "free" month that you paid for in the preceeding year.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I got even with my landline provider.

    First off let me just say that I'm on the wrong side of the pond from most of you, so your mileage (kilometerage?) may vary.

    When I started my landline service at an apartment I was moving in to, I added a clause to the paperwork contract they wanted me to sign. It basicly stated that I'd bill them $1,000.00 for every missed appointment & that much per day for every service outage. I made a copy of the changed contract, signed it, & let them know to review it before providing service "as providing service acknowledges your acceptance of the contract terms." They evidently didn't read it, for they had my service up & running a week later.

    The first time they missed a service appointment & I sent them the bill, they tried to weasel out of it. I stapled a copy of the contract, highlighted the alteration I had made, & the part about them being required to read & review it before providing service. Their lawyers made them pay up "because it's in the contract you didn't bother to read", & then canceled my service on some bullshit claim.

    I didn't bother to contest the charge, I just took my $1,000 & used it to start service with another provider.

    I tried the same trick with the new provider but *they* were smart enough to read their own (now changed) contract. I "let" myself be talked down to only a $500 per incident charge, but that's where I refused to go below on the grounds that "I lose that much in wages for not having service. If *you* don't keep your appointments, *I* lose money. That's what I'll charge you to cover lost wages."

    They wanted me to go for a business class service agreement in that case, but I said that if I *did* "I'll be paying five times as much for service so will have to charge YOU five times as much for the loss of it."

    Strangely enough they left me at consumer (not business) class & made *real damn sure* to have my service back up just as fast as they could possibly manage.

    After I moved out I learned from a friend that then worked at the company that they (the company) threatened to pass along the bill for my time to the individual tech if the tech missed the appointment. It kept the techs from merely blowing me off while they grabbed a pint.

    So try it yourself the next time your provider wants to upgrade the contract. Add your own clause to it, sign it, & notify them that they need to read & review it before providing service "as providing service acknowledges your acceptance of the terms of the contract".

    If they don't bother to read it then you get a fat stack of cash for every time they fuck up. If they DO read it then you get to negotiate with them on how much you'll bill them for your wasted time & lost service.

    Have fun!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Long overdue but...

    Great, provided this isn't watered down to the point of being meaningless by the time its brought in - and why almost a year to bring it in, with no doubt more dither time to add?

    However unless they automate ISPs ability to pass the cost onto Openreach (where applicable), it probably wont do much to fix delays, but will add to customer bills - and its not like most ISPs have a huge range of choice of supplier.

    A similar scheme in the late 80s was levelled against BT for phone repairs; 4 quid a day for every day over 24 hours for a repair. That did appear to fix the lengthy delays in fairly short order, and its amazed me that as BT have become ever worse in the last decade something similar wasn't tried again.

    In the last five years this would have given me payback of over 500 quid, mainly on missed appointments, with 210 on one fault alone in no-shows, although I'd have much preferred they simply hadn't wasted my time in the first place.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'Surely that's Parliament's job? – ed"

    No, that's pretty much the exact definition of OfCom's job. Parliament legislate, they don't regulate.

  16. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    "...bill credit or other form of cash payment..."

    This makes it sound as if a "bill credit" is a form of "cash payment".

  17. jockmcthingiemibobb

    works both ways

    If similar charges were enforcable on customer no shows then I suspect many good providers would make more money than they'd stand to lose with this bill.

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: works both ways

      If similar charges were enforcable on customer no shows ...

      Oh, so you've never had to have a fault fixed then ? It's normal with every provider I've ever dealt with (and I deal with a few through work) that when the troubleshooting gets to the point in the flowchart that says "engineer visit needed" you get read a standard spiel along the lines of "If the fault turns out to be in your equipment or wiring, or if the engineer cannot gain access, then there will be a charge of £X."

      So yes, they do enforce such charges : Fault in your wiring ? Charge. Tech turns up at allotted time and you aren't in ? Cancelled install or fault ticket and a charge.

  18. Tom -1

    I currently spend half my time in Spain, and use Telefonica(Movistar) for my land-line and broadband there. If I have a fault, I call them (using my mobile if I can't make calls with the land line). They answer, quickly - no ringing for ages, no silly music and "your call is important to us, an operative will speak to to you as soon as possible" recorded messages) and someone discusses the problem with me, passes me on to an engineer who attempts on-line diagnostics (and can sometimes fix the fault there and then). An engineer arrives either the same working day or before noon the next day and fixes the problem: if it's some idiot has cut through the line while doing some building modifications just down the road the engineer patches it, if it's my router playing up the engineer installs a new one, and so on. Before he goes away, the engineer checks that everything is working and has me check it and confirm it's ok. If I say yes it's ok, he leaves and reports completion to Telfonica. An hour or two later I will get a call from Telefonica to check that the problem is fixed - that the repair is reliable so far and hasn't broken down. There is of course no charge for this, and no threat to charge me if I call in a fault and it turns out to be mine. I pay about the same per month for my line and broadband access as I pay BT, installation was free (no charge at all, unlike BT), the router is supplied free and replaced (and upgraded) when broken or becoming obsolete (BT charges for routers and router upgrades, of course), all my calls to Spanish landline numbers are free (BT charges me for weekday calls), I have a substantial discount on international calls covering countries I call, not the whole world (so that it costs me less to call the UK from Spain than vice versa) and I can ask for the line to be temproraily disconnected now and again and pay no charge at all during disconnected periods (which are mulitples of a whole month) so if i'm going to be in Britain for a while and none of the family will be using my Spanish house I can have Telfonica disconnect it (and when I ask them to reconnect it is done within one working day), which I've done a couple of times (twice I've done this for a six month period, so in those two years I got a better service from Telefonica than from BT but Telefonica charged me only half what BT did).

    The contrast between Telefonica's treatment of customers and BT's treatment of customers is pretty amazing. It's a pity BT can't be required to provide teh standard of service that I get from Telefonica.

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