By Warren Pryer, Equinox

Poor broadband connection and poor service from your telecoms providers can be very frustrating. Unsurprisingly complaints about poor service are increasing across the UK telecoms sector, by both consumers and businesses alike. Whether it is missed appointments, late setup, poor quality connections or simply “it doesn’t work”, more and more people are no longer prepared to put up with a shoddy service that they are paying for.

So, let’s review your options when it comes to complaining and getting compensation for poor service and or poor telecoms connection.

What’s the problem?

You may think that modern technology should allow all telecoms businesses to be able to identify when something isn’t working. Surely, they should be able to quickly and easily fix problems so that your service isn’t impacted? Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes they can, but most of the time, they will need you to tell them what and when.

As soon as you notice a problem, make a note of what you perceive the problem to be, and when it started. Contact them to tell them of the issue; it is from this point that the compensation clock starts ticking.  Different companies have different times as their deadline for that day (otherwise the clock starts the next working morning), so check with your providers about when you have to report an issue by.

Be Nice

When you do call in, try to be nice to the person you talk to.  It isn’t their fault your telecoms aren’t working and you are likely to be one of very few who are nice. They are far more likely to give you what you seek, compared to if you rip into them as if they had personally cut your internet connection!

Many call centre staff will have permission to apply small credits to your account. The likelihood of them mentioning it is almost certainly directly related to how nice you are when you call.

Check your contract

Especially if you are working through a broker or reseller, check what your contract says. Their terms and conditions may differ from the actual telecoms provider.

If you didn’t read your contract in full before you signed it, shame on you. However, that doesn’t mean all is lost (refer to the point above). They aren’t likely to let you out of the contract (at least not willingly), but they may apply credits to your account if something is clearly not as it should be.

Automatic compensation schemes

Now for a little good news. Due to the volume of complaints – and the improvement in technology – many companies are either signing up for Ofcom’s automatic compensation scheme[i], or they are setting up their own.

Since 1st April 2019, BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Zen Internet have agreed to provide set compensation levels after set periods of time. Vodafone hasn’t joined the Ofcom scheme, but they have set up their own, with the same compensation payments[ii]. The bad news is that these are residential schemes, not for businesses who have experienced poor service.

BT has set up an automatic compensation scheme[iii] for their business customers; it’s a shame that others haven’t followed.

Take to Social Media

As with your business, your reputation is worth a great deal. Telecoms providers, including resellers and brokers, don’t like their dirty laundry being displayed in public. If you take your complaint to Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, there’s a good chance that they will take steps to resolve the matter. Being able to respond to your complaint publicly, particularly once they’ve resolved your issue, is good for their image and so most companies will do whatever they can to resolve the issue.

If they don’t, LinkedIn is a great way to find senior management and be able to complain directly to them.

Company Complaints URL Facebook Twitter
BT https://btbusiness.custhelp.com/app/complaints/ https://www.facebook.com/btbusinessdirect/ @bt_uk
Vodafone https://www.vodafone.co.uk/help-and-information/complaints https://www.facebook.com/vodafoneUK/ @VodafoneUK
O2 https://www.o2.co.uk/how-to-complain https://www.facebook.com/o2uk/ @O2
Virgin https://www.virginmediabusiness.co.uk/help/s/businesscomplaints https://www.facebook.com/virginmedia/ @vmbusiness
Zen https://www.zen.co.uk/contact-us/complaints https://www.facebook.com/zeninternetuk/ @zeninternet

Ofcom

Ofcom is the regulatory body in the UK for the telecoms industry. They recognise that telecommunications play a vital role in business, particularly for small businesses. They have produced what they call General Conditions of Entitlement[iv]. They are written to protect your business and provide a standard minimum level of service around complaints.

If you don’t get any joy from your telecoms provider, you may want to mention these general conditions and see what happens.  Alternatively, call Ofcom directly on 020 7981 3040.

Formal Complaints

If you really aren’t getting any joy from your telecoms provider when complaining, it may be time to make a formal complaint.

Telecoms providers must be members of an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme. They act as an adjudicator or middleman between you and the telecoms provider. Usually within six weeks, they will come to a decision. This decision is final and cannot be overturned and it cannot be appealed. However, that doesn’t stop you seeking legal advice if you don’t accept the decision.

If the ADR does agree with your complaint, they can order the service provider to make compensation payments, to fix the issue or take other steps.

There are two ADRs in the UK:

  1. Ombudsman Services[v], and
  2. Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme (CISAS)[vi]

Before you make a complaint, however, you must ensure you have met the following conditions[vii]:

  • You have already complained to the company in the first instance
  • At least eight weeks have passed since you first complained to them or you have received a deadlock letter
  • Your complaint is not in relation to fraud, property damage, discrimination or data protection
  • Your complaint is not the subject of court action
  • You understand that it is your responsibility to ensure you have read the scheme rules, guidance notes and process
  • You are based in the United Kingdom (and not the Republic of Ireland).

You can always switch

The points above are aimed at helping you to get compensation if your telecoms provider isn’t delivering the quality of service you expect and their contract stipulates. Thankfully, most of the time they will work to resolve the problem and, more and more, they are now paying out to compensate where they have failed to deliver. However, you are then left with one final option – to switch providers.  This may require some work, but the more complex (and therefore costly) the service they provide, the keener they will be to keep your business.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Warren Pryer is from independent telecoms brokerage Equinox. Equinox works with companies, charities and other organisations to help them choose the right telecoms packages for their needs and thereby reduce their costs. Equinox is particularly knowledgeable on the integration of IT and telecoms in business.  www.equinoxcomms.co.uk

Twitter: @CommsEquinox

CITATIONS and LINKS:

[i] https://www.ofcom.org.uk/phones-telecoms-and-internet/advice-for-consumers/costs-and-billing/automatic-compensation-need-know

[ii] https://www.vodafone.co.uk/broadband/auto-compensation

[iii] https://business.bt.com/compensation-scheme/

[iv] https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0021/112692/Consolidated-General-Conditions.pdf

[v] https://www.ombudsman-services.org/

[vi] https://www.cedr.com/consumer/cisas/

[vii] These are the CISAS conditions https://www.cedr.com/consumer/cisas/make-a-complaint/ but are very similar to those of Ombudsman Services.