Ofcom rules for BT Openreach to improve service

Oliver Smith
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OFCOM has proposed a set of stricter rules for BT’s Openreach division that will require 80 per cent of fault repairs to be made within two working days, regardless of factors such as severe weather conditions.

Sky and TalkTalk – who offer phone and internet services to their customers over BT’s network infrastructure – have welcomed the new rules, but warned they still fall below customer’s expectations.

“While we welcome Ofcom’s action to impose minimum quality standards, we’re concerned that some of its proposals do not match up to customers’ expectations,” said Sky on the news. “We believe that Openreach can and should be required to do better.”

Ofcom’s rules – which come into full force in April 2016, following consultation – also require 80 per cent of new line installations to be completed within 12 days, allowing customers to switch providers quicker.

“Should it fail to meet the new targets over a 12 month period, Openreach would face sanctions from Ofcom – which could include fines,” said Ofcom.

Ofcom’s probe has been examining Openreach’s quality of service – the speed at which its engineers install and repair the underlying UK network relied upon by businesses and consumers.

While the pricing of Openreach is regulated to ensure it offers equivalent pricing to other companies as to BT’s own home phone and broadband division, its quality of service has not been regulated until now.

A BT spokesperson said that the company already fixes the vast majority of line faults within the two day target. “Openreach is focused on customer service but it has to be recognised that improvements come with a price tag.”

“BT is disappointed that Ofcom wants to extend the unfair regime whereby third parties benefit from cheaper wholesale prices than BT Retail.”

The issue of delays to line repairs gained attention in 2012 due to the poor weather conditions during the year, and more recently the St Jude storm caused a deterioration in Openreach’s new line installation.

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