MPs demand compensation for poor broadband speeds

Millions of broadband customers who do not get the connection speeds they pay for should receive compensation, MPs have said.

A new report calls on Ofcom, the media and telecoms regulator, to get tough on broadband providers that promise fast speeds but fail to deliver.

The British infrastruture group of MPs, led by former Tory party chairman Grant Shapps, estimates that as many as 6.7m UK broadband connections may not hit the 10Mb minimum that the government wants to be the UK standard for a basic decent service.

The Broadband 2.0 report, which is backed by 57 MPs, calls for automatic compensation for customers who do not get the level of speed promised from the internet packages they buy.

“Although broadband is increasingly considered to be an essential utility, the quality of customer services has simply not caught up with demand,” said Shapps. “It is unacceptable that there are still no minimum standards in the UK telecoms sector to protect customers from protracted complaints procedures, and ensure that broadband providers are fully accountable to their customers.”

Ofcom administers a voluntary code of practice on broadband connections – which the UK’s main internet serivce providers such as BT, Sky and Virgin Media have all signed up to – that empowers customers to walk away from a contract without penalties if the speed consistently falls below a minimum level set by their provider.

A spokesman for Ofcom said the code was being reviewed to potentially make it tougher, but there was currently no penalty compensation related to speed failures for customers.

In March, Ofcom unveiled proposals to make providers pay for slow repairs and missed deadlines and appointments, which could result in millions of broadband and landline customers who suffer poor service receiving millions of pounds of money back automatically.

“We share concerns that broadband must improve and we’re already taking firm, wide-ranging action to protect customers,” said a spokesman for Ofcom. “These include new plans for automatic compensation, faster repairs and installations, and ensuring providers commit to giving accurate speed information to customers.”

Ofcom disputes the scale of the issues claimed by the MPs’ report. The regulator said only about 1.4m households and businesses in the UK – about 5% of the total – were not able to get a minimum 10Mb service because they were in rural, hard-to-reach locations.

Ofcom has previously found that three-quarters of premises with standard broadband could get superfast speeds, which it determines as 30Mb and faster, if they upgraded.

“Almost 95% of the UK can now get superfast broadband, but we know millions of homes and businesses have not yet chosen to upgrade,” said a spokesman for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. “We want everyone to have access to fast broadband and the universal service obligation [of 10Mb minimum nationwide] will make sure that no one is left behind.”

BT’s subsidiary Openreach, which runs the UK’s broadband infrastructure, is poised to outline a plan to the government to spend hundreds of millions of pounds to make 10Mb broadband available to the last 5% of homes that have been left behind in the internet rollout.

The proposal is yet to be made public but rivals such as Vodafone, Sky and TalkTalk, who have to pay Openreach to offer their internet packages to customers, fear that they may be charged more and that consumers will receive higher broadband bills.


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