British telecoms will pay subscribers compensation for disconnections

    The British providers of fixed telephone and Internet networks have concluded an agreement - each subscriber will automatically receive compensation in the account.

    The reason for the payments were delays during emergency repairs of the infrastructure.

    / Unsplash / Nick Fewings

    Who is involved in the initiative and how did it appear

    Ofcom proposed the introduction of automatic payments to private individuals for network repairs that take too long in 2017 - Ofcom organization regulates the activities of telecommunications companies in the UK. According to Ofcom, telecoms reimburse losses to home Internet and telephone users in only one out of seven cases when it comes to emergency situations.

    The average payout is £ 3.69 per day for the lack of communication and £ 2.39 per day for the transfer of repairs on the initiative of the provider. But the regulator considered these amounts insufficient. So, small business suffers from a small amount of compensation - about 30% of such companies in the UK use telecom services for private individuals because of their low price.

    Ofcom has joined the largest British telecom providers. BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Zen Internet have already entered into an agreement, Hyperoptic and Vodafone will become part of the initiative during 2019, and EE in 2020. These organizations serve 95% of UK users of fixed Internet and landline telephone lines.

    How is the process of compensation for losses

    All providers participating in the agreement provide services to customers through the network infrastructure of Openreach. She is responsible for the maintenance of cable and fiber networks. In the event of a long restoration of communication lines, Openreach will pay telecoms, after which the latter will cover the losses of their customers. Subscribers will receive payments to their personal account to pay for the Internet or phone within 30 calendar days after the incident. The agreement establishes a fixed amount of compensation:

    • £ 8 per day for the lack of an Internet connection or telephone connection due to a network failure. Payments begin if the service was not restored within two business days.

    • £ 5 per day for a delayed start of the service. Compensation will be charged to new telecom customers who were unable to start using the Internet or telephone within the time period set by the provider.

    • £ 25 for canceling an engineer’s visit. Clients will receive compensation if Openreach specialists do not appear at the appointed time or refuse to visit less than a day before it.

    There are cases in which providers will not pay compensation. For example, a user of telecom services will lose their right to recover damages if they do not agree to the visit of the repair service at the time proposed for recording. Also, compensation will not be paid if connection problems are caused by a natural disaster or occur due to the fault of the client. Providers have already begun the transition to a new reimbursement scheme on April 1, 2019. Companies will have 15 months to prepare for automated compensation payments.

    Pros and cons of the scheme

    The dignity of the Ofcom plan is that it will benefit consumers of services - individuals, as well as small and medium-sized companies. Providers went to meet customers, and Openreach agreed to pay compensation even in cases where it can not fix the network through no fault of its own. For example, if access to the equipment is blocked by a parked car.

    / Flickr / nate bolt / CC BY-SA

    But in the agreement there are also “gray areas” that may negatively affect providers already. Forcom, Ofcom, for example, does not require compensation in the event of natural disasters, but does not attribute damage to such situations if the repair is delayed due to bad weather.

    On the other hand, the agreement does not cancel compensation in the event of other force majeure circumstances, such as strikes by employees. The problem has not yet been resolved, and providers may suffer losses if a compromise is not reached together with the regulator.

    What offset in other countries

    In Australia, the lack of an Internet connection or telephone connection is offset by the requirements of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (ACCC). Clients can receive a deduction for payment for services for days on which the provider's services were unavailable, or compensate for the cost of alternative services. For example, if he was forced to use mobile Internet, the telecom should reimburse him for the cost of communication.

    In Germany, there is a similar practice, but with more interesting formulations. So in 2013, a German court recognized the Internet connection as “an integral part of life” and ruled that the Internet provider must necessarily compensate for the lack of connection.

    The British indemnification scheme stands out against the general background. While it is one of a kind, when telecom customers receive compensation automatically. It is likely that if the initiative succeeds, similar projects will be considered in other countries.

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