It would have seemed unimaginable just a decade ago, but today almost all of us rely on our internet connection for everything from watching TV and listening to music to chatting with friends and family and running our own businesses.
So when your service goes down it is far more than just a minor inconvenience, making it vital that broadband providers do their best to get the problem fixed as soon as possible.
From today those companies have been handed an extra incentive to get you back online as quickly as possible, with broadband customers are to be paid automatic compensation if their service breaks down.
Under the scheme, set up voluntarily by the UK’s biggest broadband providers after consultation with regulator Ofcom, customers who find themselves without broadband for two days or more will be paid £8 for every day the service is down - and they won’t even have to claim for it.
A missed or cancelled appointment by an engineers will trigger automatic compensation of £25 for the customer, while a provider who does not have a new service operating on the agreed date will pay £5 for each day the start date is missed.
Compensation worth millions
Ofcom found that previously only around one in seven broadband customers who suffered problems received compensation from their provider, and only ever in small amounts.
Now they have worked with the six biggest service providers - BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Zen Internet - to develop an automatic compensation scheme which the regulator believes could see customers benefit from a total of £142m in payments.
As well as the ‘big six’, Ofcom announced that Hyperoptic and Vodafone have also signed up to the scheme, while EE and PlusNet are reportedly committed to joining, meaning the firms committed to automatic compensation account for more than 95 per cent of broadband and home phone customers in the UK.
While the compensation scheme is voluntary, Ofcom were clear that if providers did not stick to the terms of the agreement they would “step in and take action”, which could mean formal regulation and potentially massive fines for failing to comply.
Sharon White, Ofcom Chief Executive, said, “We think it’s unacceptable that people should be kept waiting for a new line, or a fault to be fixed.
“These new protections mean phone and broadband firms will want to avoid problems occurring in the first place. But if they fall short, customers must be treated fairly and given money back, without having to ask for it.”
A BT Spokesperson said: “Automatic Compensation is absolutely the right thing to do for our customers when they experience faults. We’ve long recognised this as an important issue for our customers.”
How does it work?
If you are a customer with one of the providers that has signed up to the automatic compensation scheme, this is what you need to know.
Delayed repair following loss of service
If you service has stopped working and hasn’t been fixed after two full working days, you are entitled to £8 for every day without broadband. This will be automatically credited to your account.
If an engineer does not turn up for a scheduled appointment, or the appointment is cancelled with less than 24 hours notice, you will be entitled to £25 compensation, which will be automatically credited to your account.
Delays with the start of a new service
If your provider has promised to start a new service on a particular date, but fails to do so, you will be entitled to £5 compensation for each calendar date of the delay, including the missed start date.