Broadband providers accounting for the vast majority of UK subscribers are to begin automatically compensating customers for delayed repairs, installations and missed engineer appointments beginning Todday under a new Ofcom regulations.
The non-compulsory rules have been adopted by BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Zen Internet, which between them cover 95 percent of broadband customers in the UK.
EE, Hyperoptic, Plusnet and Vodafone have also agreed to the rules and are set to put them into practice at a later date.
Hyperoptic and Vodafone said they would begin automatic compensation later this year, with EE saying it would do so in 2020.
Ofcom estimates there are 7.2 million cases each year involving delayed broadband repairs, installations or missed engineer appointments.
But in the past only one in seven broadband or landline subscribers received compensation from providers.
The regulator began consulting on formal compensation regulations in 2017, but some service providers approached Ofcom independently offered to implement a compensation scheme.
As a result Ofcom said in November 2017 it planned to put a voluntary automatic compensation code of practice into place.
The rules should also benefit smaller businesses that use consumer broadband plans.
“We think it’s unacceptable that people should be kept waiting for a new line, or a fault to be fixed,” said Sharon White, chief executive of Ofcom, adding that the code of practice should prove an incentive for providers to look to avoid problems occurring in the first place.
“But if they fall short, customers must be treated fairly and given money back, without having to ask for it,” she said.
In cases where a service stops working and is not fully fixed in two working days, the regulations entitle consumers to £8 for each calendar day the service is not repaired.
If an engineer fails to arrive for a scheduled appointment or cancels with notice of less than 24 hours, users are to receive £25 per missed appointment, and if a service provider promises a specific activation day but fails to keep to it, customers are to receive £5 for each calendar day of delay, including the missed start date.
TalkTalk, Zen Internet and BT all use BT’s Openreach network and in December Openreach agreed to pay compensation to providers for delays to repairs or installations.
The providers said they would pass these funds on to users.
Consumer advocacy group Which? said the scheme was welcome in that it would do away with the procedures that users have had to engage with in the past to receive compensation.
“However, for consumers to truly feel the benefit of this scheme, broadband providers must improve their service overall,” said Whi? head of home products and services Natalia Hitchins. “If not, we expect the regulator to show its teeth and take stronger action.”