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BT Leaves Surrey UK Village for 10 Weeks Without Broadband and Phone

Monday, April 6th, 2015 (12:43 am) - Score 1,959

It’s well known that significant cable damage in rural areas can sometimes take significantly longer for BTOpenreach’s engineers to fix than in busy urban locations, where more people will feel the pain. Sadly this appears to be the case for 40 homes in the village of Wonersh, but the bigger issue is now one of compensation.

Apparently residents of the village have been left without broadband and phone services for a shade over 10 weeks because of a damaged local cable.

The good news is that the problem has finally been resolved, although locals are furious that their ISPs have decided to bill them for the period of outage (most are with BT’s own consumer division).

Vanessa Boultwood of New Road said (Get Surrey):

We were very, very, annoyed when we saw the bill. It seems the joke is there is no communication within a communication company. Because it is in advance, we have already paid for the months where we haven’t had phone lines or broadband; now, they are charging us for the next three months. The longer it goes on, the more inconvenient it gets.”

Technically speaking most home broadband connections aren’t covered by a proper business style Service Level Agreement (SLA) and so compensation is a matter for each individual ISP to decide, often on a case by case basis.

However ISPs will usually recognise when such serious problems have occurred and agree to some form of discount or refund, even though strictly speaking the problem was caused by Openreach’s failure to fix the cable in a timely fashion and not the end-users ISP.

Never the less ISPs do have a contracted duty to provide the service you’re paying for and if they haven’t been able to deliver a working connection then there’s really no excuse for charging.

Thankfully some locals have received a hold on their bills and others, after extensive complaining to a higher level of BT’s complaints department, are being promised a refund. But the response by BT’s consumer division has been varied when it should have been the same for all those affected. Indeed others are still trying to get a refund.

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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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21 Responses
  1. adslmax Real says:

    I think it time for Ofcom to clampdown all isp’s must provided and including Service Level Agreement (SLA) for both residential and business.

    1. FibreFred says:

      There’s a cost for sla one most people will not be willing to pay

      Aren’t you knee jerking here? How often does this happen ? How many people are left with no service in a year for 40 days ? Is it even 1%?

    2. AndyH says:

      There is a SLA on all lines.

    3. Steve Jones says:

      It would be covered by normal consumer legislation. You simply can’t bill for 10 weeks whilst not providing a service. Really this is a failure by the ISPs concerned, including BT Consumer of course. They ought to deal with this automatically and with appropriate consideration without customers having to complain. There’s no excuse. Simply bad customer service.

    4. AndyH says:

      Normal WLR comes with a standard SLA where Openreach will aim to clear a fault at the end of the next working day +1 (Mon-Fri). LLU lines come with a slightly better SLA, where Openreach aim to clear the fault the end of the next working day (Mon-Sat). You can pay for improved SLA, up to 6 hour repairs 24/7, but none of these will be guaranteed.

      ISPs normally receive one month’s line rental in compensation for each day the fault is not cleared beyond whatever SLA is provided. Very rarely is this passed back to the end customer though. I should also make it clear that there is a long list of scenarios where compensation to the ISP is not payable (cable theft, someone damaging Openreach’s network or extreme weather are the obvious ones).

  2. X66yh says:

    ….and are you (and the rest) fully prepared to pay for the price rise to line rental that would result.

    No, though not.

    Why do you think business lines are more expensive? – ‘cos they do already have SLA’s attached to them.

    1. Sledgehammer says:

      It does not have to be a line rental increase, it should be included in the Broardband cost making it a fixed price. Putting a SLA on line rental is unfair on people that only have a phone and no B/B.

    2. @Sledgehammer So your theory is forcing someone to buy broadband, just to get an SLA?

      Both phone and broadband, at the wholesale level, can get SLA options, if either the SPs decide to include one or the customer opts to enhance their base service.

  3. Ethel Prunehat says:

    There doesn’t need to be a price rise, as any SLA could merely formalise what already exists, ie your service is guaranteed to be working 0% of the time and if your service happens to work 100% of the time, then great. What would be the point of that, I hear you ask? If it gives consumers a better understanding of what they’ve bought, then it gives an advantage to service providers who run a more reliable network, and that must be a good thing.

  4. dragoneast says:

    The big ISPs can afford the refunds because of the volume of business they generate. The small ISPs often can’t. So like much well-meaning regulation, drive the smaller specialist ISPs out of the consumer market and leave it to the big mass market operators who can give consumers the sort of treatment they deserve (being treated like mushrooms)!

  5. gerarda says:

    The consumers aren’t contracted to Openreach so the ISPs cant hide behind that excuse.

  6. AndyH says:

    In this situation a SLA wouldn’t speed up the repair anyway.

    Whilst I sympathise with the residents, I think any compensation above and beyond line rental or broadband refunds should need to be proven. Any court would need actual evidence of losses incurred, either directly or indirectly as a result of the loss of telephone and broadband.

    1. DTMark says:

      I was thinking of that aspect.

      It’s all well and good for ISPs to purport to offer business grade services with SLAs, but they are only as good as the supplier’s ability to supply.

      If one of those forty lines was a business line with an SLA, I’d have thought there could be a case for bringing it to Court to claim loss of profit regardless of what the SLA limitations are, partly on the basis that the product was mis-sold.

    2. AndyH says:

      You would still have to demonstrate how the loss of the telephone/broadband service has resulted in the loss of revenue though.

      Losing telephone or broadband service is not going to give you the right to a blank cheque. If the residents in this story are expecting hundreds or thousands of pounds in compensation, then they are going to have to demonstrate and prove this financial loss. The normal compensation from BT is equivalent to the daily line rental rates.

      A number of years ago, we were left without phone lines due to some local BT fault for about a week. All our business was done with the US and we were using mobile phones. I think it cost us thousands in mobile phone charges and all this was recovered from BT fairly easily, but it was simple to prove.

  7. Al says:

    I suspect that all the majority of end users want is a refund for the time they were without service. And we aren’t talking about a day or two or even a week but almost 3 months. I think it’s not unreasnable for ISP/line rental cost to be refunded if the outage last longer than a week or a fortnight maybe a month at the max. How often does an outage last longer than a day or two not often I suspect not often even less for an outage to last longer than a week or a fortnight?

    And LLU shouldn’t get a better SLA than non-LLU after all in a non-LLU exchange usually ones classed as Market A as BT have the monopoly all exchanges should be provided with the same SLA.

  8. PeterM says:

    Clearly this is an issue for OFCOM to sort out. Its not much point having a regulator if they cannot act as referee on a case by case basis with these sort of issues.

  9. Vince says:

    I would pretend to be amazed, but the compensation available to customers is minimal even when you’re the customer with a contract with Openreach.

    We had a customer whose phone lines and FTTC service were totally dead for 22 days last year… totally crippling the business. We even had the more expensive care on the line.

    The “compensation” doesn’t even cover the rental cost.

    1. Kekle says:

      What I don’t understand about stories that I hear like this, if a companies relies on it’s phone and internet connection (as many do), and I’m talking in the sense of if your business can be “crippled” should you lose your phone or internet service then it’s your own responsibility to have a redundant connection to tide you by in these scenarios.

      My home internet connection has a redundant 4G connection that will take over should my VDSL fail, if my internet or phones were down for an extended period I could easily upgrade the 4G plan for not alot of money to give me more data. So if it can be done simply and cheaply on a home broadband connection, it’s not going to take a big investment to sort your business with some sort of basic backup to keep you connected.

    2. AndyH says:

      @ Vince – That’s a bit strange as the basic compensation should be 1 month’s line rental for each day the fault is not fixed.

      Obviously there are some scenarios where I don’t think it’s payable – such as a third party damaging the OR network. But even then I think you can claim against OR who in turn claim against the third party.

    3. Crum says:

      AndyH – is that a blanket statement for basic compensation? If the CP is BT which from the story I’m assuming the majority are then the user can basically claim the most of the rental back for there total loss of service. There are some caveats such as each user needs to have reported the fault and the compensation is from day 4 of the loss onwards. Its referred to as daily rate rental credit. The days of a months rental for each days outage are long gone with BT and I’d be surprised if any CP can afford this.

  10. Matt says:

    I was one of the people impacted by the outage mentioned above. After 8 weeks of no service and terrible customer service from BT I moved to Sky. BT have now told me that because I’m no longer a customer that I’m not eligible for a refund or compensation. So basically they are thieves. They have stolen 2 months of line rental and call packages with no service.

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