UK telcos could be forced to shell out £185 million for poor service under Ofcom plans

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Telecoms customers in the UK who experience poor landline or broadband service could be subject to automatic compensation under new proposals made by regulator Ofcom.

Providers may be forced to automatically issue a cash payment or credit the affected consumer’s bill in the event of disruption.

Circumstances that would be covered by the proposals would include delays in repairs to or availability of the service.

It would also include when an engineer fails to attend a scheduled appointment.

Ofcom suggested that the penalties could be set at £10 for every calendar day that a service is not repaired, £30 per missed appointment and £6 for each day that the start of a new service is delayed.

This would remove the complicated complaints procedures currently required, according to the regulator.

Ofcom figures suggest that up to an additional £185 million could be paid back to up to 2.6 consumers each year if the plans are put into place.

Currently, the regulator said, there are 5.7 million cases of consumers experiencing a loss of their landline or broadband service, 250,000 missed appointments and 1.3 million people experiencing delays in landline or broadband installations.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said: “When a customer’s landline or broadband goes wrong, that is frustrating enough without having to fight tooth and nail to get fair compensation from the provider.

“So we’re proposing new rules to force providers to pay money back to customers automatically, whenever repairs or installations don’t happen on time, or when people wait in for an engineer who doesn’t turn up.

“This would mean customers are properly compensated, while providers will want to work harder to improve their service.”

The consultation on the proposals will be open until 5 June 2017 with a decision statement made at the end of the year.

BT, Sky and Virgin Media have put forward draft proposals for a voluntary industry code of practice. However, Ofcom said that these proposals do not meet its concerns.

Ofcom has begun the year by handing out a series of major fines to UK providers.

In January, it fined EE £2.7 million for overcharging tens of thousands of customers in 2014 and 2015.

Earlier this week, Plusnet was handed a £880,000 fine for continuing to charge a group of customers after they had cancelled their contract.

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