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Should Compensation Always be Mandatory for Broadband ISP Outages

Friday, January 25th, 2013 (8:59 am) - Score 2,012
network connections

Sooner or later all ISPs will suffer some form of service disruption that can result in the loss of your internet connectivity. Most of these outages are resolved quickly but some can last for days, weeks or occasionally even months. Now a court in Germany has ruled that everybody has the right to compensation after an internet disruption.

The Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe was apparently overseeing the case of a man whom had lost service to his DSL broadband, phone and fax line for a period of two months between late 2008 and early 2009.

According to Reuters, the man had already been compensated for having to use his mobile phone but he also wanted compensation for the loss of internet access. In German law the loss of any “essential material items” can be compensated and the court ruled that the internet is now an “essential” part of life.

In the United Kingdom most ISPs, just like many other commercial businesses, typically adopt a relaxed attitude towards compensation and will rarely reimburse a customer proactively. On the other hand there are methods by which you can claim compensation for a broadband and or phone outage, such as simply by writing a letter of complaint, although few people ever even attempt this.

The telecoms regulator, Ofcom, advises ISPs to be fair with their customers and there are also plenty of schemes, such as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) procedures, that exist to help encourage this approach. In our own experience we’ve often been able to gain compensation for a lengthy loss of service simply by requesting it and credible smaller ISPs sometimes do this proactively.

But wouldn’t it be wonderful if, from a consumer’s point of view, all ISPs were required to proactively compensate you for any outage that lasted longer than a certain period of time (e.g. 24 hours?). Unfortunately ISPs would probably find this to be a headache, especially given the often grey area of responsibility that exists between an ISP and their suppliers, such as BTOpenreach. The point is “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” so ask first.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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7 Responses
  1. Avatar Charlie B

    So ISPs will then simply adopt a “Ryanair” approach and add a “European Compensation Levy” of a pound to ensure themselves against compensation.

    Would UK consumers be happy with that levy to ensure they get compensation ?
    Doubt it but if the UK want to continue the “blame/claim” culture then expect to pay for it somewhere…£££ doesnt grow in pots…pardon the pun.

  2. Avatar Martin Pitt - Aquiss

    This simply would not work, even if ISPs were forced to adopt this.

    We as a company come across too many examples where our customers think they have an outage as a result of ISP failure, but turns out to be customers own CPE failure. Who gets the blame for this? Its hard enough convincing customers to check their own kit as it is.

    Should the ISP then charge for having its time wasted when customer has not checked their own kit before contacting a support department?

    Likewise, if a customer has a telephone (PSTN) failure, which takes out the broadband, does the ISP then have to compensate for this also?

    Its also well ad good pushing for ADR’s, but again the ISP picks up the cost for this, even when they are right.

    As Charlie B says, this will increase costs of monthly subs as someone will end up paying for it all.

  3. Avatar Somerset

    And how much, the rental of £1/day?

  4. Avatar dragoneast

    Ah nostalgia. A bit over ten years ago BT got themselves in a right mess over trying to restore my landline, which was intermittent for nearly 2 years. I recall in those days there was compensation of one months line rental for each complete working day of outage of more than 5 working days. Unfortunately my outages were intermittent (but off more often than on) so the comp was just about £1200 in total (approaching 5 years rental at the time, but it paid towards a couple of Christmasses). The compensation scheme was abolished soon afterwards. But they sorted the phone line (eventually) on the twenty-fifth attempt.

  5. Avatar Charlie B

    The problem with your nostalgic reference Dragoneast is we now live with a price driven so low by consumer demand, there is not enough money to compensate, regardless of who’s to “blame”.

    A month’s compo per days outage is nothing short of ridiculous, little wonder it was abolished.

    • Avatar dragoneast

      Absolutely Charlie, I agree. The problem is that we all look at our own narrow circumstances and ignore the bigger picture. I think that regulation hinders as much as it helps, but we want all the benefits of low prices combined with improved services, and think someone else should always foot the bill. When we don’t get what we want, it must be down to a conspiracy. Not so.

  6. Avatar DTMark

    The example is quite extreme in that someone lost service for two months.

    At a bare minimum, surely the customer needs to be refunded for the period of loss of service in that example assuming that the ISP kept on billing during that time.

    I agree with the stance that people should pay for an SLA if they want one which changes the nature of the service to reflect the user’s dependency, that said, Adrian Kennard notes issues with this in his blog now and again in that it doesn’t appear that the supplier they use takes the SLAs seriously in every case, leaving him/them in a difficult position, though they remain the contracted party. But then they can always gain compensation from their supplier, surely 🙂

    I thought here in the UK the provider has an obligation to (I may misquote) provide “the services with reasonable skill and care” so even without an SLA if the service is broken for, say, ten days, it could be argued that this is not “reasonable skill and care”.

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