Communications regulator Ofcom has put forward plans which would see consumers who suffer from slow repairs or missed deadlines or appointments be recompensed with a cash payment or credit on a bill.
Ofcom estimates that up to 2.6 million landline and broadband customers could receive a total of up to £185 million in new compensation payments each year as a result of the measures.
Under the proposals, customers would be entitled to automatic compensation without having to go through a potentially lengthy and difficult claims process when:
:: their landline or broadband is not fixed quickly enough after it has stopped working;
:: their new landline or broadband service is not up and running on the day promised;
:: an engineer does not arrive for an appointment as scheduled.
In response to Ofcom’s plans, BT, Sky and Virgin Media have jointly put forward a draft proposal to introduce automatic compensation through a draft voluntary industry code of practice.
But Ofcom said it does not “consider that this proposal sufficiently meets our concerns, when quality of service falls short”.
Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s consumer group director, added: “When a customer’s landline or broadband goes wrong, that is frustrating enough without having to fight tooth and nail to get fair compensation from the provider.
“So we’re proposing new rules to force providers to pay money back to customers automatically.”
Compensation payments would be set by Ofcom, and the proposals apply to fixed broadband and landline telephone services only.
According to Ofcom figures, there are 5.7 million cases of consumers experiencing a loss of their landline or broadband service every year, with engineers failing to turn up to around 250,000 appointments and one in eight landline and broadband installations being delayed, affecting more than 1.3 million people.
A consultation on the proposals is open until June 5 2017 and the regulator will make a final decision before the end of the year.
Alex Neill, of consumer group Which?, said: “Broadband has become a modern day essential, so it is only right that consumers should get compensation when their provider fails to deliver.
“Ofcom now needs to swiftly push ahead with these proposals and ensure that this and other measures help to significantly improve the service that broadband customers receive.”