We’ve all received bad service and not got the satisfaction we feel we deserve. But if you’ve signed a broadband internet contract and you’re not getting what you wanted, here’s how to kick up the right kind of fuss!
There are few things more infuriating than not getting what you want, especially if you’re paying your own hard-earned cash for it. As kids we’re taught to live with disappointment, but as bill paying adults who aren’t getting what was sold to us or what we ordered, we reserve the right to kvetch!
If you order a pair of shoes or a dress online and they pinch, or the fit is wrong for your shape, you just send it back and get a refund or replacement. Simple. If you get a random product as a substitute in your grocery delivery you roll your eyes and hope for better luck next time (while wondering what on Earth was going on in the head of the person who substitutes a salad with a chocolate bar, or condoms with a pregnancy test!).
But what about when you’re not receiving a product or service such as broadband data that was promised? There are several things which can, and do go wrong with your Internet Service Provider, some are unavoidable, some take a bit of effort on their part to fix, and some are so chronic that you have the right to leave your contract early without incurring penalty fees or other additional costs.
Consumers who live in out-of-the-way areas may find that they’re not going to get gigabit data for the foreseeable future, fibre to the property might be a long way off and Wi-Fi might not be deliverable. These are all things the call centre agent you’re on the phone to simply can’t fix. However, if these problems genuinely can’t be avoided then the Internet Service Provider should make every effort to offer you a deliverable alternative which is reasonably priced. If they can’t, you simply shop elsewhere.
The Consumer Rights act is a long and, predictably, impenetrable piece of legislation, although it does some brilliant things to protect you and me from unprofessional, unscrupulous or lazy retailers and service providers. Shops will often brag about their ‘outstanding’ returns policy, but generally all they are doing is conforming to, or only marginally bettering what is contained in the Consumer Rights act anyway.
What the act essentially guarantees is that goods or services must be fit for the purpose for which you bought them, as described in the advertising or sales pitch, and at the price that you were quoted when you agreed to sign on the line. “Fit for purpose” is generally taken to mean that it isn’t damaged or defective, in which case you can simply demand your money back. It can also mean, especially in the case of electronics and durables, that it is compatible with the other devices with which you are going to use it. That means that if you bought something which you didn’t realise only operated on Bluetooth but you have wired connections you should be able to take it back and get a replacement with something which will work, or credit note. (You wouldn’t be able to demand a refund as the product itself isn’t faulty, and remember to keep the receipt.)
In the case of broadband there are several factors which can affect the service you receive and in turn the validity of the contract and your ability to get out of it if the service isn’t to your satisfaction.
If your broadband service is slow, keeps freezing, glitching or dropping out there could be several reasons, and not all due to poor service from your Internet Service Provider. Perhaps you simply don’t have the right package for your needs.
Your data could be slow because:
- You’re trying to use a device in a ‘shadow’ or blind spot caused by particularly thick walls, metal filing cabinets, fridges and freezers. Setting up your router among other wires and power cables can create a barrier to Wi-Fi signal too.
- You have too many data-hungry devices connected and in use all at the same time. Even if your contract says “unlimited data” you might still be restricted on the speed at which this data can be delivered. If that’s the case there simply isn’t enough data coming into your home fast enough to supply all the devices at once.
- The router you got free or supplied as part of your installation costs is going to be the cheapest available on the market. It should be able to deliver the maximum speeds you were promised, but how reliable or powerful it’s going to be, or how long it can keep up with operating at full capacity is questionable.
- Apps and programmes which are running in the background can make your computer run slowly, especially if your computer has been put to sleep or standby instead of completely turned off for a long time.
- Watching movies free on illegal platforms can cause many problems which look like poor speeds too. They’re not the most stable websites and will have a lot of pop-ups, malware and viruses waiting to infect our machine. While your antivirus and ad blocking software will usually be able to handle all of these threats, it will mean that your computer has to work harder. Because of that it will be slower than if you were watching on a legitimate website.
There are several ways to check how fast your internet speed is, the first is to use an internet speed test which will tell you how much data you’re receiving. Once armed with this information you have leverage to ask your Internet Service Provider to improve your service if you’re not getting what you’re paying for.
If your data speed is significantly lower (most Internet Service Provider’s usually use the caveat “speeds up to XXX” in their sales and marketing) than what was promised and it’s not reasonable to imagine that will change you could be eligible for a refund, a discounted price in the future, or the option to terminate your contract early without penalty if they are not able to repair the fault adequately.
The Consumer Rights act does have provisions which support the retailer and supplier too. If you bring slow speeds to their attention they have the right to try and fix it, free of charge, so you can get what you were expecting. The main suppliers and many “disrupters” – small independent local broadband data providers – are signed up to the Ofcom Voluntary Code. The code demands that the suppliers must give accurate data speed estimates and ensure a minimum speed guarantee, so while you might not ever quite get to the maximum estimated speed, the minimum should be a reasonable proportion of that, and you should be able to rely on getting that minimum at all times.
Your Speeds Are OK, But You’re Being Charged More Than You Bargained For
If you signed a broadband contract for a minimum period your supplier does have the right to make a “reasonable” price increase during that term. What is considered reasonable is doing it once, and not increasing the monthly payment by more than a pound or two. Seeing astronomical price hikes month after month is definitely not reasonable. If you get a price increase without having been written to at least 30 days beforehand and you feel it was unreasonably high, or it’s happened once or twice before, you may be able to claim a refund. If customer services can’t help you may be able to make an official complaint to the ombudsman.
Once your minimum contract has expired you can keep the router you got and should be migrated over to a rolling contract which you can get out of by simply stopping paying. There won’t be any additional fees and it won’t affect your credit rating.
What If You’re Not Getting Any Broadband At All?
As with any utility, faults which are beyond anyone’s control do occur. A short outage, say of an hour or two is probably not worth the inconvenience of complaining about. It’s just life. On the other hand, if you’re not able to connect for a day or two, or you regularly find that your internet is falling down then you should get in touch with your provider’s customer services to get the issue resolved. If this is happening then you should be able to get compensation, a reliable, permanent repair to your service if it was down to a fault in their infrastructure, or cancel your contract without incurring any penalties or additional costs.
Again, the supplier has the right to try to fix the problem first, but that must happen in a timely manner. It’s no good if you haven’t had internet for weeks and it’s going to take weeks to fix. If that’s the case you should insist on them waiving the fees for the duration of the outage. If you really can’t wait that long then ask them to let you out of your contract so you can migrate to a competitor who can deliver.
Getting Out Of A Broadband Contract
If you’re still in contract you might want to get out of it for many reasons, however, unless you have a legitimate problem with the service you’re receiving you will probably find that you’re subject to a termination fee.
You can get out of your broadband contract if:
- Your data provider increases the prices without giving you 30 days’ notice, or the increase isn’t reasonable
- You’re within the cooling-off period. If you bought the package from a sales person who came to the door or over the phone, or you bought online, you have a 14-day cooling off period during which you can cancel the contract under the Consumer Contracts regulations
- You don’t or can’t get anything like the speeds you were promised when you signed the contract, or the service is unreliable
- You are moving home. You may be able to cancel when you move, or, if the supplier offers the same service in the area you’re moving to, then you may be able to take it with you instead
Who Do I Complain To About My Poor Broadband Service?
First of all, ensure you’re complaining about the right thing. Go back and check those other things which could cause your internet run slowly. Check your internet speeds, and review the ‘levels of service’ or ‘service agreement’ section of your contract. This section outlines exactly what the minimum you should expect and demand is, and if you’re not getting it, complain!
You should direct your complaint to the Customer Services or technical support department of your Internet Service Provider. Customer Services are more likely to be able to help with admin and billing problems, while Technical Support should be able to help if you’re running slowly, there are frequent interruptions to your service, or you have a fault with your router.
Customer Services will also be able to advise you how to escalate a complaint, directing you to their official complaints process if they can’t deal with your complaint themselves.
If you’ve tried a complaint with tech support, customer services, and the official complaints procedure didn’t help and you’re still not satisfied you can ask for a ‘Deadlock Letter’ or ‘Final Response’. This letter confirms that you and your Internet Service Provider are still unable to reach a solution or resolution to which each of you are agreed. Once you have this letter, or you haven’t heard anything from your Internet Service Provider for 8 weeks, you can go to the ombudsman to have them decide on what they feel is the best outcome. It’s not guaranteed that their decision will go your way, but if you genuinely have been treated shabbily you should find that they are able to make your service provider refund you, compensate you, or simply let you out of your contract without penalty fees or black marks on your credit report.
If you want to change your current ISP, or you are looking for a new contract for a new home, or you’ve simply never had a contract before then get in touch with Briant Broadband by calling 01903 221999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a fast, local customer focused service.