James Walker: Make sure you get the broadband you paid for

More than 17,000 people have contacted Resolver about broadband in the past couple of years.
More than 17,000 people have contacted Resolver about broadband in the past couple of years.
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We’ve got so used to broadband, mobile phones and new technology that the world of landlines and dial-up connections seems far away.

But as we’ve become more reliant on broadband services, problems have emerged. Over 17,000 people have contacted Resolver about broadband in the past couple of years. Complaints range from dodgy connections to service failures, with MIA engineers and rubbish customer service high on the list too.

There are some positives. It’s just been announced that broadband providers will be forced to advertise the speeds that at least half their customers actually receive. At the moment, they can get away with promoting the speed that only the top 10 per cent get – which is hugely misleading. And regulator Ofcom is consulting on introducing automatic compensation for delayed repairs and missed appointments.

But most of the people I speak to just want what they’ve paid for. So if you aren’t getting the service you signed up for, here’s what to do.

◆ Do a speed test. There are many free apps that will allow you to check the speed of your broadband connection. You can find a selection on Money Saving Expert’s guide. Take a screenshot each time you check.

◆ Speak to your provider (send them a tweet or get in touch online to jump the queue), you could ask for something to boost the speed, get a reduction in your payments – or they may even have a fix.

◆ Take it higher. Resolver can help you make a complaint, but it pays to set out your argument in simple terms. If you want to get out of the contract, provide proof of the poor service and the efforts you’ve made to sort it out. Broadband speed isn’t guaranteed, but you can argue that you’re not getting the service you paid for if it’s constantly disrupted.

The question I get asked the most is: “Is it worth switching providers?”

There’s no simple answer, I’m afraid. The quality of broadband can be affected by lots of things. Here are some examples:

◆ Telephone extensions. Extension leads can lower your broadband speed or cause interference, as can tangled leads (it’s not all technical). Shorter, higher-quality cables can make a difference.

◆ Microfilters. These are the little white boxes that split the broadband and phone signals. Check you have one and that it’s working. Your broadband provider can confirm whether you need one.

◆ Electrical stuff. Fish tanks, lamps and dimmers, speakers and even fairy lights are rumoured to affect signals. Don’t be fobbed off. Move your things about but get the engineer to identify any problems. Moving the router off the floor can also help.

Research suggests you’ll be charged upwards of 40 per cent more if you stay loyal to some providers. So, switching can really save you a lot. But remember the following.

◆ Check your contract. You could face a hefty charge for cancelling early. Negotiate if you’ve not been getting the service you’ve paid for and use Resolver to make a complaint.

◆ Check out what other people are saying about the competition. Some customer service is better than others.

◆ Don’t forget to ask what happens next. I’ve seen grown men and women reduced to jibbering wrecks after three days offline.