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ISPs Give Mixed Verdict on Compensation System for Broadband Faults

Saturday, March 25th, 2017 (1:23 am) - Score 1,375

Internet providers from across the industry have today given a mixed reaction to Ofcom’s newly proposed Automatic Compensation system, which will force fixed line phone and broadband ISPs to pay out cash or bill credits to consumers if they suffer a total loss of service for more than 2 days.

On the one hand many consumers will welcome the change (see full details), which should also push ISPs and network / wholesale suppliers to improve their service quality. On the other hand Ofcom estimated that its system could potentially distribute up to £185m in compensation payments per year and that’s likely to result in a price increase for existing subscribers.

Naturally ISPreview.co.uk has been keen to find out how ISPs felt about the new system and the initial reactions appear to be lukewarm, with most supporting Ofcom’s principle but not the regulator’s execution. In particular some of the biggest players would much rather see an industry-led approach than one driven by the regulator, although Ofcom has already rejected that as being insufficient.

A TalkTalk Spokesperson said:

“We welcome measures to make it easier for consumers to be reimbursed when things go wrong, In principle, we’re broadly supportive of Ofcom’s measures, but it’s important that any scheme is fair and transparent and based on a set of minimum standards that guarantees every line is capable of providing the broadband customers depend on.”

A Virgin Media Spokesperson said:

“It’s important that customers are treated fairly when services can’t be delivered, but this is best achieved through a robust industry-led approach. The industry is working together on ambitious reforms that would incentivise communications providers to compete to provide customers with a better service, while also setting minimum standards that providers would have to meet.”

A Spokesperson for the ISPA UK said:

“Customer service is a priority for ISPA members, borne out by Ofcom’s own research that shows the overwhelming majority of consumers are satisfied with their communications services. ISPA’s own consumer complaint data shows a huge fall in numbers over a ten-year period which demonstrates that ISPs are continually improving their complaint handling.

We understand that on occasion service standards may fall short of what is expected and so ISPA is supportive of a strong and fair consumer protection regime.

ISPA will continue to work with its members to scrutinise the proposals and the potential for unintended consequences, and work with Ofcom to ensure that the UK broadband market remains competitive, transparent and effective.”

Marc Agnew, Vice President of ViaSat Europe, said:

“While financial compensation can’t come soon enough for Britain’s beleaguered broadband customers, Ofcom and the UK government are looking out for haves, and letting the have-nots fend for themselves.

We applaud Ofcom’s plan which should also help improve “truth in advertising”, with service providers being more realistic about the speeds they can deliver to a given street address in order to avoid penalties. However, this initiative won’t improve service for the UK as a whole.

Ofcom is focusing on the people who can already get broadband, and compensating them if the service is unreliable. However, it ignores the millions who can’t get broadband. Ofcom’s proposal is intended to cause incumbents to improve the reliability of the services they offer today, but that’s not going to motivate them to expand their footprint to the underserved and unserved population. On the contrary, it’s going to motivate investment in already well served areas.”

Simon Davies, Boss of iDNET, said:

“This has long been overdue and is very welcome. The biggest problems are caused by Openreach failing to turn-up for an agreed appointment to fix a fault or install a service. This causes great inconvenience to customers who have had to take time off work to be at home and businesses who have booked an installation for the day that they are due to move into their new offices etc. Compensation should be paid at the same rate as the cost of the lost service: either engineer appointment/installation cost and/or daily service rental. It just remains to be seen if Ofcom have the teeth to force Openreach to comply.”

Andrew Sayle, Zen Internet’s Product Manager (Broadband), said:

“At Zen we think Auto Compensation is a good move for consumers.

I think the principle that “a wholesaler should meet the cost of retail level compensation in circumstances where it is at fault” is a very welcome inclusion and necessary in order to make the proposal work. And should also help reduce the likelihood of retail broadband prices increasing.

As a supplier I can foresee us having occasional issues identifying exactly who is to blame and so who is liable to cover the cost of compensation. But when a supplier or wholesaler has let down the customer we accept that the customer should be compensated.

I think the proposed scenarios and levels of compensation are fair and appropriate. I think they will serve as an incentive for communications providers and wholesalers to repair faults as quickly as possible.”

Adrian Kennard, MD of Andrews & Arnold (AAISP), said:

“In principle it is a good idea for consumers.

The biggest issue by far is that OFCOM think we can “negotiate” compensation from carriers like BT Wholesale and Talk Talk. We cannot even negotiate a way for carriers to actually fix faults (both carriers will often insist we buy an optional extra service instead of actually fixing faults). We have no confidence that carriers will pay the same compensation to us, and if that does not happen, apart from being out of pocket, there will be no incentive on the carriers to actually improve services! Indeed, if Openreach pay carriers and carriers don’t pay us, they have incentive for poor service and delays!”

Martin Pitt, Boss of Aquiss, said:

“Our biggest fear with this, is we often get customers who sit on faults for a couple of days, or more, before reporting a problem to us, such as a total loss of phone services. There has to be clear point as to when the clock starts.”

A Spokesperson for Openreach (BT) said:

“We are still in the process of reviewing the detail. However, we would be surprised if we needed to increase what we pay our CP customers given how generous the Openreach SLGs already are.”

We are still awaiting feedback from several other providers and may update again in the future. Sadly BT’s Consumer division chose not to comment.

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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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18 Responses
  1. Avatar Kits says:

    Openreach does make mistakes and those could cost days without internet a friend lost both phone and broadband completion from openreach to fix the fault was a week from when it started. They did report it to their supplier the day it went down. No engfineer from openreach for a week.

    They need to pay for all id they fail to turn up then they compensate the person waiting in for them.
    If they fail to fix within 2 days then they should pay the fact that domestic phone lines in openreach is already set at 2 days before they send an engineer shows they need to change.

    There are many at risk people who live where m,obi.e phones do not work if they need emergency services they cannot get them out if openreach sit on tgheir backsides for 2 days before sending engineer out.

    I am a BT shareholder and hate how openreach prioritise the faults.

    1. Avatar AndyH says:

      Who was your friend’s supplier?

      Openreach don’t sit on their backsides for 2 days after a fault is reported, it is the SLA with ISPs for the repair of a fault. I had a telephone line fault a couple of years ago, reported it to Sky and an engineer came out within a few hours (as he had just finished another job in close proximity to me).

    2. Avatar Fastman says:


      all service providers have a SLA with openreach – that SLA’s will be determined by the type of SLA’s they have some may be a numb er of hours, some may be a nubmer of days – so you information is incorrect — not sure what you being a shareholder has anything to do with it

    3. Avatar syms says:


      My FTTC was down for over a week and a half, after I reported it- they didn’t just sit on their backsides, they took a mini cruise as well!

  2. Avatar Gadget says:

    Do we know how many ISPs went for this option, as they may well appear as slow to fix faults in some stata http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2015/10/btopenreach-offer-broadband-isps-the-option-of-slower-fault-repairs.html

    1. Avatar MikeW says:

      Remember, though, that at the time (Nov 2015) BT Retail worked at the lesser care level anyway.

      In 2016, BT Retail improved their care level – jumping from the 2 day to 1 day response. Sky took advantage of that new service, and went from 1 day to 2 day response.


  3. Avatar dragoneast says:

    Ofcom reinvent the wheel!

    It seems to me like back to the old telecomms compensation scheme c2000. I “made” over £1,000 quid out of it. The fault didn’t get fixed any quicker, in fact I suspect it took rather longer and certainly cost more (disregarding the compensation) with all the abortive work they put into it. Ignoring that most broadband complaints now are probably about quality of service, not total loss of service. I’ve never had a total loss of service since 2001, save one dodgy port which even Orange LLU fixed in a couple of working days. Loss of speed, packet loss and high latency though, are old friends which visit with regularity.

    What happens with force majeur, BORC?

    Don’t send engineers out, or send several and waste resources, just in case. We’ve been there before. It’ll change priorities, probably; just not necessarily in a good way too.

    All in all I suspect more window dressing by Ofcom. They have to justify themselves, somehow. We’re still around, and we can bite! Good entertainment.

  4. Avatar Kits says:

    AndyH they were with plusnet, since BT seldom change copper even when it goes through trees plus they no longer maintain the network onlt fix when it goes faulty. Explain why customers who have paid the line rental plus high install costs have to pay extra money to get it fixed quicker?

    They had been having same problem for over 2 years before total loss crackly line sometimes working sometimes not. Even had exactly the same pole repair three times engineer said it needed full new pull through. To this day it is still patching it up instead.

    He is moving suppliers soon as fed up with it all, any faults not fixed only Openreach should pay compensation as in the end the ISP can only raise it with them they cannot make them send engineers out quicker they also cannot repair it themselves.

    1. Avatar AndyH says:

      Plusnet do not immediately report faults in most cases. The way they handle faults is it’s raised, then there is 48 hours for them to investigate. So it can be 4-5 days after reporting a fault that you will see an engineer. If you report a fault on a Friday evening, it’s often not even picked up until Tuesday the following week!

      BT and Sky are fair better at dealing with faults, they check a line when you speak to them and raise it with Openreach straight away.

  5. Avatar dragoneast says:

    It BT can repair, rather than replace, then why not? To argue otherwise is to expect everyone else to pay for our benefits. Why? We gave that up in the 1970s, because the country went broke.

    At the end of last century I lived on an estate where the Developer (in the 1960s) just slung the cable in the ground. It was cheap and when there was excess it was sufficiently cheap to be just curled up, randomly. No such thing as an inspection chamber for miles around. Nothing unusual.

    Everyone’s phone, randomly, started losing service, and BT patched the cable, in maximum two metre excavations at a time, over more than a decade. You can see the patches to this day (and the inspection chambers they put in).

    We now have a reliable service. Low (capped) speeds, against what you can argue we should get, some packet loss and high latency (particularly around winter). But that’s all we pay for. All the bleating in the world won’t change the economics. Would it have made sense to replace the lot? We could argue until the cows come home, and did. It won’t make the blindest bit of difference.

    Some jobs are just difficult. My line was intermittent (more off than on) for over two years. And specialist resources aren’t always available at the drop of a hat. Looking back my problem was obvious (my neighbour’s repair had damaged my line). But they aren’t at the time; especially where the best available diagnostics show something different.

  6. Avatar Kits says:

    I fail to see why Plusnet which is owned by Bt cannot check the line when you report the problem. I know my ISP Aquiss can as they have a few times when I was having poor voice reception.

    1. Avatar dragoneast says:

      I think very often it depends on the individual you speak to (and perhaps their experience). I’m with IDNet, who have a good reputation, but they advised me to call back in a few days if things hadn’t improved when I reported a 35% loss of throughput even after a couple of weeks of waiting on my part for that purpose.

      I don’t work for an ISP, but I suspect that with automated monitoring systems, and BT’s DLM, it’s actually necessary to wait and see to be able to sort out the wheat from the chaff; even before we get to the sheer volume of reports to the major ISPs. We all expect personal service, but the modern world doesn’t provide for it. The benefit is that we can have compensation after two days, because in the vast majority of cases the automated systems will have clocked or even addressed the problem. The downside is that we have to give them the time to do so, and can’t have our own personal butler service. Some ISPs might report straightaway, but whether that is any quicker is another matter. We all like to jump the queue.

      Sadly, or perhaps necessarily, this world we have created for ourselves is often about making you feel better about things, not actually making things better.

    2. Avatar MikeW says:

      The answer, Kits, is money. It is cheaper for Plusnet to deploy staff the way they do, but it means the people answering the phone aren’t necessarily skilled enough to diagnose and pass on the fault.

      Having said that, Plusnet can respond faster. With audible noise on the phone line, I ran their online troubleshooter. It ran the tests itself, and from that result, then reported the fault to Openreach directly and immediately.

      I suspect that total outage faults, like the ones that can generate compensation, will be easy to pass on quickly.

      “Explain why customers who have paid the line rental plus high install costs have to pay extra money to get it fixed quicker?”

      Because it does – that has long been the industry we have been given by Ofcom. The way to make residential broadband really, really cheap is to give it terrible support. Want better support? Expect to pay more for it – either by choosing an ISP with better support staff, or by buying a better care level on the underlying Openreach product. Or both.

      You might think you have been paying high costs, but you likely haven’t.

      Care levels: https://www.openreach.co.uk/orpg/home/products/serviceproducts/serviceharmonisation/serviceharmonisation/downloads/SML_fact_sheet_web_vers_phme_61163_2011_09.pdf

      Level 1
      Clear by 23.59 day after next, Monday to Friday, excluding Public and Bank Holidays. For example, report Tuesday, clear Thursday.

      Level 2
      Clear by 23.59 next day, Monday to Saturday, excluding Public and Bank Holidays. For example, report Tuesday, clear Wednesday.

      Level 3
      Report 13.00, clear by 23.59 same day. Report after 13.00 clear by 12.59 next day, seven days a week, including Public and Bank Holiday.

      Level 4
      Clear within 6 hours, any time of day, any day of the year.

      The costs of jumping to better care levels? From the Pulse8 website:
      – A “care level 2” business line costs 80p per month more than a “care level 1” residential line
      – Their “Enhanced line care” bolt-on, that adds “care level 3”, costs £6 per month.

      On the Openreach price lists, the wholesale ex-vat price to CPs are:
      – SML1 included
      – SML2 £6.32pa
      – SML3 £43.52pa
      – SML4 £54.32pa

      The trade-off is clear – pay more, get faster service. On a budget? Expect less.

  7. Avatar adslmax Real says:

    Plusnet need to removed stupid 48 hours fault report as it nonsense to wait for 4-5 days is far too long. Other isp can do it in the same day, so why can’t PN do the same?

  8. Avatar Dave says:

    I think this going to be great for me. I have had a total loss of broadband service for over 10 weeks in the last 3 years. First with Talktalk and then Bt and finally Plusnet, all as bad as one another!

    1. Avatar AndyH says:

      What were the reasons for the outages?

  9. Avatar Dave says:

    Unknown can’t get a straight answer from Openreach but I think it’s a combination of line faults and capacity

  10. Avatar Mans says:

    looking forward to seeing if your get a response from Origin Broadband. They will be panicking over these proposals, if they are still around by the time the rules come out.

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