A decent broadband connection has become a modern necessity for a lot of us, with it often sitting at the top of the list when moving home. So it'll come as a disappointment to many when they find that it isn't always that simple, with over a third of home-movers having experienced an unexpected delay in getting their broadband working, and some even waiting for weeks on end.
That's according to research from Citizens Advice, which found people are often left without a working internet connection for long after the date the provider said it would be set up. Some 15% of people said that they ended up with a slow or unreliable connection when they last moved home, while 11% had to wait for engineers on multiple occasions, and 9% said their engineers' appointments had been rescheduled.
Then there are issues with routers, with 8% having received a router that didn't work properly, and 5% not receiving one at all. This may all sound a bit like first world problems, but having no internet connection (or a poor one) can be particularly tricky when moving into a new home, making it a whole lot harder to do things like change addresses for household bills or access internet banking to keep track of all the costs that are an inevitable part of moving.
Poor internet connections are even more frustrating when you're paying good money for it, with Citizens Advice noting examples of people who had paid upfront for expensive fibre broadband only to still not have access to it weeks later. And then there are exit fees – if you've become fed up of broken promises from a provider and want to switch, chances are you'll be out of the cooling off period and will be told you'll have to pay exit fees, which could be hundreds of pounds.
"People paying to have their broadband set up all too often face big set-backs," said Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice. "Moving house can be a difficult and stressful experience, and delays in getting the internet can make this worse if providers fail to keep to promised dates or engineering visits don't materialise.
"Broadband is now such an essential service that people moving house will often rely on it for crucial tasks, like changing their address for household bills or ordering essentials. It is fundamentally unfair that in some cases customers are paying for a service they don't receive for weeks or even months at a time after moving."
Happily, the regulator could be stepping in. Ofcom has proposed a scheme that would automatically compensate customers who face delays or missed appointments, similar to those in the energy and water industries: they'd get a set amount of compensation each day past the date that the provider said the broadband or landline would be set up or repaired, as well as extra compensation for each missed appointment with an engineer, regardless of the provider.
This could go some way to repaying the time and money many people shell out for this kind of service, but there are concerns that the scheme could be "watered down" by a rival voluntary scheme that's been proposed by some of the largest internet providers, and could leave consumers some £52 million worse off than the mandatory scheme proposed by Ofcom.
This is because the proposals put forward by the industry would see customers compensated by £7 per day for loss of service beyond two working days, as well as £4 per day of delayed installation and £20 for a missed appointment. Conversely, Ofcom is proposing that customers be given £10 per calendar day for loss of service, £6 per day for delayed installation and £30 for every missed engineer appointment, so it's easy to see which proposal offers customers the better deal.
"To hold providers to account for breaking promises to their customers, the regulator should move forward with its mandatory automatic compensation scheme," said Gillian. "This would make it clear to people what they are entitled to when they get poor service and put an end to customers having to negotiate how much they get back for their wasted time."
The scheme is still in the proposal stage, so it won't help people who are currently locked in a battle with their internet provider. If you're one of them, check to see whether you can switch without incurring any exit fees, and look at the small print to see what kind of compensation you could be entitled to. And, if your contract's about to end, compare broadband deals to see if you can find something better.
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