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Plusnet, Vodafone and EE Drag Feet Over Automatic Compensation

Saturday, November 14th, 2020 (12:01 am) - Score 12,240

After almost 20 months of waiting it’s become increasingly disappointing to find that three of the UK home broadband ISPs that originally pledged their support to Ofcom’s new automatic compensation system for customers – Vodafone, Plusnet and EE – have yet to officially join the scheme.

The new voluntary system, which went live from 1st April 2019 (full summary here), is essentially designed to compensate consumers by £8 per day for delayed repairs following a loss of broadband (assuming it isn’t fixed within 2 working days). Missed appointments can also attract compensation of £25 and a delay to the start of a new service would be £5 per day.

A quick glance at the regulator’s list of signatory ISPs reveals that most of the major home broadband providers have joined the scheme (e.g. BT, Sky Broadband, TalkTalk, Virgin Media), including a few smaller ones like Utility Warehouse, Hyperoptic, NOW TV (NOW Broadband) and Zen Internet.

Despite this it doesn’t take a genius to spot that there are a few recognisable names still missing. Vodafone originally pledged to join by the end of 2019, but they later adjusted that to “Summer 2020” (here) and we’re still waiting. Plusnet also pledged to join the scheme “as soon as possible“, but have yet to do so. Finally, EE aimed to go live this summer but missed that window (EE and Plusnet’s parent operator – BT – had no such trouble).

The Current Position

In fairness the providers, much like the rest of the country, have faced a particularly challenging year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated lockdowns, which delayed a lot of work projects. Ofcom similarly relaxed their enforcement of certain consumer protection measures during the first lockdown (here), which ran from late March to May/June and has now hit again.

Nevertheless, Ofcom’s spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk that they were still “disappointed some large providers are yet to fulfil their earlier public commitments to join.” Once again, we’ve shot a message off to ask Vodafone, EE and Plusnet what their current plan is.

NOTE: Some of these ISPs will still provide compensation when things go wrong, albeit often judged on a case-by-case basis.

A Vodafone UK Spokesperson said:

“We’re working closely with Ofcom and in are in the final stages of getting our Broadband Auto Compensation live. As you’ve noted the second lockdown has provided some further challenges, which we are working through with them and will be sure to update you when we have a confirmed launch date.”

A Plusnet Spokesperson said:

“We remain committed to joining the auto-compensation scheme and are working hard to introduce it for customers in 2021.”

An EE Spokesperson said:

“We’ll be joining the auto-compensation scheme early next year when we hope that Government lockdown restrictions will have lifted and there will be no further interruptions to our ability to carry out repairs in our customers’ homes.”

We queried the provider’s positions with Ofcom, which told us that Vodafone have been making the necessary changes; but previously targeted October 2020 to launch, and has yet to provide a firm date. Meanwhile EE was said to have provided assurances that it has now completed the necessary systems developments and is ready to join, but they have since delayed that again due to the COVID-19 crisis and are instead waiting until repair engineering activity is back to normal. Finally, the regulator said they expect Plusnet to join in April 2021.

A few months ago Ofcom issued their first update on the new system of automatic compensation (here), which found that almost all of the providers included in their analysis took an average of 2 days or less to resolve faults (EE was the only one to take 3 days or less, while Virgin Media took just 1 day).

As for missed appointments, Openreach – used by several of the signatory ISPs – missed just 1.4% of new install appointments (1.9% last year) and 1.5% of repairs (1.8% last year). By comparison Virgin Media missed 0.7% of all appointments for installs (0.1% last year) and 1.7% for repairs (0.7% last year). KCOM also missed 0.1% of installation appointments and 3.5% of repairs in 2019.

The scheme has so far seen over £20.7m (£9.7m on delayed repairs, £1.6m on missed appointments and £9.5m on delayed installs) being paid out to 600,000 broadband and landline customers who experienced problems with their service. This is more than double the £8m that Ofcom estimated was paid out over an equivalent 6-month period before the scheme was in place.

To sum up. The good news is that Vodafone, EE and Plusnet do still expect to join, but the pressures created by COVID-19 and its associated lockdowns are continuing to create problems. As for why more ISPs don’t join, the high cost and technical requirements (new systems needed etc.) of supporting such a scheme often discourages them. Such costs often end up being passed on to end users via price rises.

Leave a Comment
29 Responses
  1. Avatar Roy says:

    Plusnet are the worse ISP ever

    1. Avatar André says:

      They are probably also the cheapest.
      You get what you pay for.

    2. Avatar IcyEars says:

      Back in the day they used to be one of the best. They got and kept customers through there reputation and customer service. Then BT bought them and it will want down hill. Now they get customers through the TV marketing and offers.

      As someone once said to me “Advertising is because they want you to buy their product. Discouns are because they really need you to buy their product. You need to ask yourself why they really need you and if you are happy with whatever compromise is the answer to that.”. Applies to everything but was originally said about food advertising.

  2. Avatar JB says:

    People need to start paying £8 per day for internet if that is the expected level of compensation for not having it.

    1. Avatar André says:

      Can you explain the logic behind your statement?
      The intent is to be obviously punitive, thus forcing the ISPs to get their arses in gear when problems arise.
      Also, when a service as important as broadband is ceased with no warning (due to a fault, for instance), the consequences stretch farther than just the loss of service. There may be significant inconvenience or financial consequences, for instance.

    2. Avatar wirelesspacman says:

      IF broadband is as important as you say Andre, then why do those customers who feel that way not have (and pay for) resilient feeds installed?

    3. Avatar Davros says:

      I agree I have a 100/100 leased line and I pay £8.64 a day and I rely on mine for work and home use.

    4. Avatar André says:

      That’s a fair comment, wirelesspacman, although the importance of internet access these days is pretty much self evident.
      The problem is that for a bit more resilience, you have to pay orders of magnitude more money, to the point of unaffordability.
      At my place, for instance, my broadband costs about £50
      A leased line would be around £400.

      I suspect some people might be happy to pay somewhere in between the two for a better QoS.
      Then again, I accept I’m just speculating. I have absolutely no access to market data, and it may be that most consumers look only at the monthly fee.

    5. Avatar Stephen Wakeman says:

      Dumb logic. The ISP us contractually obliged to provide you a service. If they don’t there needs to be an impetus for them to fix a problem.

      These companies make a profit, you realise? What the customer pays is more than it costs them to provide. It’s how capitalism works.

      On the same token, if the customer exits the contract early they often have to pay the remaining months off even though they won’t be getting that service. They shouldn’t do that either then by your logic because that is not a cost either.

      Fundamentally, you do not grasp several concepts of business.

  3. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

    Unsurprisingly I don’t see Three in the list either. Maybe because they’d have to pay out so many £8 a day they’d go bust within a month?

    1. Avatar Lister says:

      Not really, this is for fixed line services only.

  4. Avatar AT says:

    I don’t see how compensation is far at all. Having a quick look around, some of the ISP’s are almost giving away BB for the first 12/18 months. Then you have the likes of Andrews and Arnold who charge a lot more.

    1) it just be a percentage of the broadband subscription cost
    2) Why should Openreach or ISP pay if someone drives into a cabinet and they can’t get it replaced straight away, or if OR need to dig up a farmers field and doesn’t get permission for months (seen both happen).

    It’s hardly fair.

    Or maybe it is fair and I’m wrong. In which case charge everyone 50% of their wage in taxes and be done with it.

    1. Avatar André says:

      I suspect the instances of services drops because someone drove into a cabinet are rare.
      Most cases it’s probably due to human error, mistakes or poor resourcing.
      I would imagine the ISPs wouldn’t have agreed to this if they thought they’d be in trouble and it’s food to have some form of punitive measure on the side of the consumer.

    2. Avatar Stephen Wakeman says:

      The issue with your idea of charging people by tax is that telecoms is a private industry. It makes money privately and so if something goes wrong and impacts private investment and stakeholders, why should the taxpayer foot the bill? They should have their own insurance.

      I find it crass that so many people would quickly jump to the defense of ISPs when most of them are scumbag companies owned and operated by enormous media conglomerates.

      Do you really think that companies like Talk Talk, Vodafone et al give a crap about individual customers? Vodafone have a history of tax dodging. Yes, make them pay. I don’t care if it’s unfair in your view. Neither is them paying no tax on billions in revenue. They can afford to pay £8 a day to people who are paying for their service and not getting it. It’s not coming out of my money, thanks.

  5. Avatar Zxcvmnm says:

    The ISP pays? Presumably they are at the mercy of openreach turning up?

    1. Avatar Stephen Wakeman says:

      Presumably so is the customer. For years they’ve had to suffer being at the mercy of OR. They don’t pay OR though do they? They pay the ISP. So it is the ISPs problem. What’s the problem with that?

    2. Avatar Zxcvmnm says:

      Well if the problem is with the ISP then this should encourage improvement. But if the problem is with openreach, who are often the only supplier, then unless this affects the
      will this actually get anything fixed any faster?

  6. Avatar Billy Nomates says:

    What about VM’s automatic compensation, as in it doesn’t exist.
    I’m on a business link, they’re supposed to notify me of planned and unplanned works, yet they don’t. And when i’m offline, I have to argue with them on the phone for a whopping grand total of £1 compensation for being offline that day. It doesn’t matter my business lost money due to being offline, nope £1 is all you’re due, and you have to sit on the phone for an hour or more making that £1 turn to nothing.

    Who’d have thunk it? ISPs don’t live having to cough up compensation when they’re legally obliged to. Has anyone ever tried to get a refund from British Airways? They have to have a team of people consult the dictionary to find out what “compensation” means, which takes a few months, then they offer you some vouchers that you didn’t ask for.

    1. Avatar AT says:

      To be fair though, if you need it for your business and you’re found to cry over a days outage you should switch to your backup service.

    2. Avatar AT says:

      Going* not found

  7. Avatar John Smith says:

    EE are the most tight-fisted company I’ve ever known. Profit margins of 26% on what is a utility and basic human need just like electricity supply in this day and age. This profiteering from their uncompetitive market has to stop.

    EE having the longest fix times of up to 3 days vs 2 or 1 for the others, and them being the last to commit to joining the scheme (and blaming the pandemic as an excuse when others haven’t) is risible.

    1. Avatar IcyEars says:

      I’ve had 3 Sky engineer visits during lockdown and am scheduled an OpenReach one next week. Other companies are not “interrupted” carrying out repairs (although they may be delayed) so EE saying “that Government lockdown restrictions will have lifted and there will be no further interruptions to our ability to carry out repairs” reads to me that they don’t want to take any financial hit by delays caused by C-19. It’s simply profiteering and protecting the share holders with no thought to their cashcows, I mean customers.

      They came up 2nd cheapest when I was recently shopping for a new contract but after reading reviews on them they were immediately discounted. If prefer to pay slightly more for a company that has some conscience.

  8. Avatar Colin Ratcliffe says:

    Just left TT after having no internet for over 15 days. Phoned,did live chat ,spoke to umpteen tech support people all to no avail .
    Final result was I had to pay early release penalty and told would have to wait upto 30 days after service was restored before a decision on getting compo was made.
    So much for automatic compensation.
    Seems all one way in favour of ISP

  9. Avatar ADM says:

    I’ve been with ee for years. My broadband has been faulty for over 3 months now (I suspect exchange issue, but the OR engineers don’t like it when you’re knowledgeable)
    EE simply don’t care. It’s not surprising where there’s not a financial risk to them. So far it’s cost me over £700 in lost work.

    1. Avatar Curious says:

      Have you taken your case to ADR?
      All ISP’s must be signed up to an Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme. There are a couple, and you can check which ADR scheme your provider is signed up to here: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/phones-telecoms-and-internet/advice-for-consumers/problems/adr-schemes

      You must have raised an official complaint, and it must either be over 8 weeks old, or deadlocked (neither party can come to an agreement/conclusion)

      You have a proper case for this, and ADR can step in and make things happen (including financial penalties).

      It also costs your ISP around £400 whenever your case is accepted by ADR. Hence penalizing your provider even further.

  10. Avatar Darren Reid says:

    I thought Ofcom said companies don’t have to pay out during the coronavirus pandemic? In which case what’s the point in enrolling now?

  11. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I work for one of those companies and would be happy to answer questions within reason as some of the comments being made by folks in the comment section are frankly laughable and entitled

  12. Avatar Anon says:

    Inaccurate information given on one provider in particular!

  13. Avatar Stacy says:

    I have had problems with plusnet for a couple of months now fones dont want to load apps ect,or my amazon fire stick will constantly stop working saying (connected but with problems)

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