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Ofcom UK Warns Sky Broadband Over Tricky Contract Terminations

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016 (12:57 pm) - Score 1,533
sky broadband uk

Sky (Sky Broadband) has said they’re “very disappointed” after Ofcom provisionally determined that the operator may have breached its consumer protection rules for governing the termination of contracts outside of a cooling-off period.

The national UK telecoms regulator officially extended its industry-wide monitoring programme into cancellation and termination arrangements last June 2015, which occurred after 2,000 people complained that they had suffered difficulties when trying to cancel their contract with various different providers (mobile, fixed line, TV etc.).

Shortly after that Ofcom began a related probe into Sky’s broadband and phone services (August 2015), which included a focus upon whether or not Sky had contravened General Condition 9.3 (i.e. terminating a contract outside of the cooling-off period) and in so doing had made it harder than it should be for customers’ to escape the operator.

Ofcom’s Statement

Following an investigation, Ofcom has provisionally determined that there are reasonable grounds for believing that Sky contravened GC9.3 of the General Conditions between 1st May 2015 and 31st July 2015 in respect of landline and broadband services.

Ofcom has therefore issued a Notification to Sky under section 96A of the Communications Act 2003 (the “Act”). Sky now has an opportunity to make representations to Ofcom on the matters contained in the Notification before Ofcom makes a final decision in accordance with section 96C of the Act.

According to Ofcom, GC9.3 is designed to ensure that the conditions or procedures for contract termination do not “act as a disincentive for end-users changing their Communication Providers“. The outcome is still provisional and thus subject to change, although Sky is clearly unhappy.

A Sky Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“We are incredibly proud to have the highest customer satisfaction levels in the industry, as ranked in the last Ofcom customer service report. We have worked with Ofcom openly and constructively throughout their investigation so are very disappointed with this provisional decision. We will review the provisional assessment in detail and put forward our case before Ofcom makes its final decision.”

In fairness Sky does tend to attract some of the lowest levels of complaints among all of the biggest phone and broadband ISPs (example). The regulator’s own data also appears to show that Sky delivered a large reduction in the number of complaints related to cancellations between September 2015 and January 2016.

However one bit of good news for Sky is that Ofcom has dropped a related probe into consumer cancellations that occurred ‘within’ the cooling-off period (the above findings focused on those that occurred ‘outside’ of the operator’s cooling-off period); GC22.

The regulator has not set a firm date for the final outcome of their investigation, although they usually tend to uphold provisional rulings. After that it’s just a matter of what penalty (if any) is imposed. Ofcom could choose to impose a financial penalty or force through further changes, although Sky may well argue that it has already delivered a marked improvement.

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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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4 Responses
  1. Avatar Paul

    i completely agree with this report sky refused to let me leave under a contract i was happy to pay early termination fees but sky said that was not possible i got told the fees would be a few hundred quid turned out to be £35 and as for the tv i had to but a complaint in for them to finally allow me to leave.

  2. Sky are a bit twitchy right now, I can only assume their continued attacks on others (mostly BT) are because they are terrified of what will happen when 95% of the country has 24mbs broadband, and realise they can get a Netflix account for £6pm instead of Sky Movies (is it £25+pm for Sky Movies?).

  3. Avatar dragon

    Interesting, I didn’t really have a problem cancelling my FTTC in contract after about 6 Openreach engineer visits failed to fix the constant dropouts.

  4. Avatar dean hendry

    Recently got made redundant but was soon back into work I couldn’t make one month’s so I rang up told them what had happened and asked if they could roll it over to next month bare in mind I have paid 10 months payments with no problem only to be told no I had to pay so much or I was get restricted I says I am willing to pay just role it over they were having non of it I asked to speak to someone higher only to be put on hold and the same person I spoke to come back on saying his boss agreed with him and would not let me speak to a manager I put phone down only to have an email next day saying my bill will be rolled over with no restrictions so it was resolved but why couldn’t he just do that on phone ridiculous when contracts up I am away from sky.

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