Contact one of the UK's two telecommunications ombudsmen if your internet service provider is not responding to complaints
Because of a cable fault, I had no phone or broadband services from BT for all of April. The service is back now but my download speed consistently shows as about 13Mbits/sec, while I’m paying for ‘up to’ 40Mbits/sec. Other people in the street have had similar problems. I pay £26 for the service each month but BT gave me a refund of only £8.
David A Jarvis
Mr Jarvis signed a contract with BT for broadband and phone services and if the company is unable to provide it, then it is in breach of contract. Although BT has now restored the services, Mr Jarvis is not getting anywhere near the promised ‘up to’ speed.
Read more: Consumer rights
Before the problem began, he said he was getting around 38Mbits/sec.
Despite calls to BT, it has done nothing, so he asked us if he could break the contract and move to another internet service provider (ISP). He also asked if he could get compensation for money he spent in internet cafes and on his mobile phone when he did not have the service.
Contract law in the UK is complex but, put simply, if a company breaches a contract, then the law tries to ensure that the claimant is put back in the same position they would have been in had they not signed the contract.
Mr Jarvis can write to BT explaining that it is in breach of contract and should remove him from the contract with no charges. Damages should include a refund for the service costs when it was unavailable and what he spent on alternative services, providing he has proof of this. If BT is unwilling to consider this, he can raise the issue with one of the UK’s two telecommunications ombudsmen.
BT belongs to Ombudsman Services: Communications (previously known as Otelo) and Mr Jarvis can make a complaint to them. Customers of other ISPs should see the box below to find their ombudsman.
Referring a broadband or phone problem to an ombudsman
If you have a problem with an internet service provider (ISP) there are some basic steps that need to be taken. You will need evidence to back up claims and must give the ISP eight weeks to resolve the complaint before taking the matter to the ombudsman.
If, during this time, you receive a letter from the company that says it rejects your complaint or makes a final offer, and you are not satisfied, it is time to contact the ombudsman.
The two ombudsmen are Cisas and Ombudsman Services: Communications and each has a page displaying the list of companies affiliated to it. The ISP has to abide by the ombudsman’s ruling but the customer does not. You should:
• Keep a record of everything, including emails, phone calls with the date and person spoken to, and what the ISP has done to try to rectify the situation.
• Ask the ISP to send a letter confirming its final position on your complaint – whether that is an offer you find unacceptable or a rejection of the complaint. This is known as a deadlock letter.
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