Virgin Media could be facing a compensation bill of up to £8m a year from new Ofcom rules which will force broadband providers to cough up automatic compensation when things go wrong.
Under the scheme, customers who report Internet outages that are not fully fixed after two full working days will receive £8-a-day automatic compensation paid as a refund on their next bill.
According to research carried out by Which?, Virgin Media – which has nearly 6 million broadband customers – is the worst culprit among broadband providers for leaving customers without a connection for long periods.
One in six Virgin customers, equivalent of a million people, said they had been left with no connection for hours or days at a time. If this proves to be correct, Virgin Media could be paying out nearly £8m a year.
Among the other big providers, one in ten Talk Talk customers had experienced problems with having no connection for long periods, and nearly one in ten of both BT and Sky customers experienced the same issue.
Virgin Media, BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Zen Internet – who together serve around 90% of broadband and landline customers in the UK – have already signed up to the compensation scheme, which comes into force today (April 1), while Vodafone and Hyperoptic are new signatories.
Customers will also get £5 per day if the installation of their service is delayed and £25 per missed appointment if an engineer fails to turn up or cancels at short notice.
Ofcom says more than 5 million consumers lose their landline or broadband service each year, nearly 250,000 engineer appointments are missed, and more than a million landline and broadband installations are delayed.
Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services, said: “Broadband customers who suffer slow repairs, missed appointments and delayed installations have up until now had to jump through hoops to get compensation, so it’s encouraging that some will now be refunded automatically.
“However, for consumers to truly feel the benefit of this scheme, broadband providers must improve their service overall. If not, we expect the regulator to show its teeth and take stronger action.”
Ofcom chief executive Sharon White 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. We welcome the companies’ commitment to this scheme, which acts as a strong incentive to improve service for customers.”
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