Regulator warned that broadband customers could be tens of millions out of pocket if internet firms get their way


The UK regulator wants internet firms to automatically credit customers' bills (Source: Getty)

Broadband customers are set to be short-changed out of tens of millions of pounds if regulators cave in to the demands of Britain's largest internet providers, a leading consumer group has warned.

In March, Ofcom revealed plans to force internet firms to automatically compensate customers for poor service.

In a joint response to the plans BT, Virgin Media and Sky set out an alternative to the penalty structure put forward by Ofcom. 

But if the industry fine structure is taken on instead of the watchdog proposals, customers will be £52m out of pocket, Citizens Advice has calculated.

Gillian Guy, the chief executive of Citizens Advice said:

The regulator must hold its ground and introduce a compulsory automatic compensation scheme that clearly lays out how much consumers are entitled to when they get poor service, with the amount providers have to pay reflecting as closely as possible the detriment faced by consumers.

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Loss of service

Delayed installation

Missed appointment

What the industry is counter-proposing

£7 per calendar day for loss of service beyond two working days

£4 per calendar day (only payable automatically if customer subsequently activates)

£20 for a missed
appointment slot or cancellation with less than 24 hours' notice

What Ofcom is proposing

£10 per calendar day beyond two working days after the provider becomes
aware of the loss

£6 per calendar day beyond the date that the provider has committed to in a written form

£30 for a missed appointment slot
or cancellation with less than 24 hours' notice

Ofcom is cracking down on telecoms firms in a number of areas. It has levied large fines on firms, including slapping BT with its largest ever fine of £42m earlier this year. It also wants to heighten competition by making it easier to switch between providers of services such as mobile networks.

BT, which also represents EE and Plusnet, agreed with the regulator's plans for automatic compensation "in principle" in its response in June.

But, with the support of Sky and Virgin Media, the telecom added: "Ofcom’s approach to estimating the cost of consumer harm currently experienced, from which it derives the level of compensation payments it proposes to mandate, is not robust."

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