Need to know what to do about a slow internet connection? Confused about your broadband rights? Check out Resolver's guide to broadband.
Who is your issue with?
Issues with broadband can sometimes be tricky to resolve, although Ofcom is currently planning new rules and regulations on the side of the consumer. It’s often difficult to know when you’re right to be complaining about your internet speeds – it sometimes seems that it’s impossible to fix slow internet, but this isn’t the case! Our general rule of thumb is this: if it feels unfair, complain! When you’re sold broadband, you enter into a contract with your provider – this means they have certain obligations when it comes to providing the service they’ve sold you. Most broadband providers will gladly resolve your problems – it may just take a little help from Resolver!
This guide will run you through the current state of play, exploring common issues and outlining your rights.
What can I do about slow internet?
The rules say that your broadband provider has to supply a service that works exactly as described in your contract. This means that you have the right to complain if you’re getting speeds slower than advertised.
The first step is to register the problem with your broadband provider through Resolver. Resolver will keep a log of your correspondence – we recommend that you take advantage of this and use Resolver to register every incident or outage with your broadband provider. Broadband providers often have data showing that other people around your area have experienced perfect service, even when this hasn’t been the case for you! Getting around this is easy – we recommend that you check your broadband speed using a free broadband speed checker. Broadband.co.uk provides a free speed checker that is Ofcom-approved – Google has launched one, too! Just take a screenshot of the result to send to your provider.
Average download speeds
Ofcom’s UK Home Broadband Performance report has shown that the average download speed in the UK is 34.6Mbit/s at peak times (8-10 pm) and 39.1Mbit/s outside of peak times. Ofcom has proposed that service providers will soon have to advertise the slower peak-time speeds that people may experience, with a guaranteed minimum speed advertised at the point of sale. This may come into effect early in 2018.
Many speed-related problems can be resolved through your broadband provider’s internal channels, since they are contractually obligated to take your request seriously. Resolver will help you keep track of any correspondence you’ve had with your provider. If you’re not happy with their response (or multiple visits from engineers don’t fix the problem), Resolver will help you escalate the matter internally. If you feel that you have exhausted all other options, you should register a complaint with your broadband provider via Resolver with the aim of getting a “deadlock letter” – this is written evidence that you can use if you need to take the claim further through an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme (more on this below).
If you feel that you’ve been deliberately misled regarding the speed of your broadband, you can also contact the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) through Resolver. You may also have the right to make a claim through the courts under the Consumer Rights Act. It will rarely come to this, however. Broadband providers will do their best to fulfil the terms of their contract – it might just take a bit of help from Resolver!
Ofcom’s voluntary code of practice
If you’re a customer of the following companies, you may be protected by Ofcom’s Voluntary Code of Practice. All signatories of this code are obliged to provide accurate and transparent speed information.
Residential Providers signed up to the plan include: BT, Sky, Virgin Media, KC, EE, Talk Talk, Vodafone, Zen Internet.
Business Providers signed up to the plan are: BT Business, Talk Talk Business, Virgin Media, Daisy Communications, KCOM (Hull business), XLN, Zen.
If your broadband speeds drop below a certain minimum level, you may be able to exit your contract without penalty if your provider cannot resolve critical problems. You do have to give them a reasonable amount of time to fix the problem, which means you may have to have several visits from engineers. In addition, this “minimum level” is considered to be represented by the highest speed available to the slowest 10 per cent of households in the provider’s customer base. In most cases, this is pretty slow! The best way to check this is by using a free speed checker (see above!)
My broadband has gone down!
Your provider is obliged to fix any faults with your broadband. Get in touch with your provider via Resolver as soon as you notice a problem. Broadband providers are expected to respond to your complaint within a reasonable length of time – it isn’t fair for you to keep paying for a service you’re not receiving, and you’re correct to be complaining!
If the provider says they’ll take a long time to send out an engineer, you can use Resolver to escalate your complaint. It is important to make a log of the results of any visit from an engineer. In some cases, it has taken multiple visits for a problem to be resolved. We recommend that you make a note of this, as it will serve as evidence when you escalate your complaint.
It is normally in a broadband provider’s best interests to fix your problem quickly – it may be due to a problem with their infrastructure. You shouldn’t have to pay for problems that are caused by your provider’s infrastructure (see section on BT’s charges, below).
Does my broadband provider have to reply to my complaint?
Yes! When you sign up to a broadband service, you effectively enter into a contract with your provider. This means that they have to do their best to honour the terms of the contract. If you find that they’re not doing this (after you’ve given them every chance to fix the problem and you’ve acquired a “deadlock letter”), you should consider contacting an ADR (as mentioned above). These are independent organisations trusted to resolve problems that can’t be fixed via normal channels.
Ombudsmen and alternative dispute resolution schemes
BT's £129.99 call-out fee
BT users have often complained of being charged £129.99 for a visit from a BT engineer. This high charge often seems unfair, as the engineer may only have attended the address for a short amount of time (or may not have fixed the problem at all).
BT’s rules say that you’ll be charged if the problem occurs within the boundary of your home. This includes problems like damage you’ve caused, your home phone extension wiring, interference from other devices, damage from flooding, or telephone wires that have been accidentally cut.
BT states that they won’t be able to tell you if there’s a charge until after an engineer visits your premises. To avoid incurring a charge where possible, we recommend that you let BT do their best to resolve the issue over the phone. It is best to let BT run line tests wherever possible, just to be certain that the problem isn’t with your house or equipment.
There have been numerous reports of these charges being incorrectly applied. If you are concerned that you have been incorrectly charged, we advise that you use Resolver’s free service to contact BT. You should have to hand any evidence of the incident, including any previous conversations you’ve had with BT.
The engineer has damaged my property!
If an engineer causes damage to your property, you should raise your concern with the engineer. Contact your broadband supplier and alert them to this also. It would be advisable to take photographs to use as evidence, in case of a dispute. If you are a tenant, you should contact your landlord to let them know of the situation. Your broadband supplier should arrange an inspection at a time that suits you both, and make or pay for any necessary repairs.
My installation has been delayed!
Once you have purchased your service, your provider should confirm when installation will take place. They should have a code of practice in place, which details how long you should have to wait for installation. Should they not adhere to their stated deadlines, you should make a complaint. Where you are waiting for broadband to be installed a phone line is usually essential. If the phone line is being provided by a different supplier, then contact the phone line provider to complain.
Both companies should be able to liaise to resolve the issue, but it is often amazing how wrong these issues can go. Even if an installation timescale was not agreed at the outset, a service still should be carried out within a reasonable timeframe and this should be no more than three weeks in our view. If a phone line is already in place and it needs activating this should be 48 hours or less. If it has taken longer than you think is acceptable, contact your provider for information as to why it has taken so long and when the installation will take place.
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I've paid my bills but I've received a court summons!
If you receive a court claim after you have paid any arrears, you should contact your broadband supplier immediately to prevent any further action being taken. The court claim may have been issued before your payment was processed. You should have either a receipt number or payment code from your payment. Give this to your supplier, along with any other documentation proving your payment. You may be subject to an increased fee to compensate the supplier for the expense of obtaining a summons, and will be obliged to pay this as well in order to avoid further action. If you consider these fees to be excessive, you should write to the customer service department of your supplier, giving details about what you are complaining about, when it occurred, and why you consider the fees to be excessive.
I've been billed by a previous supplier!
We advise you to get in contact as soon as possible! Let your previous provider know that they’ve incorrectly charged you and send them any evidence you might have (this should include the date you switched services). It is possible that the bill represents a termination fee included in your contract of services – if this is the case, you will most likely have to pay. It may also represent payment of a debt that you have previously agreed to pay back to the supplier by instalments. You should contact your previous provider to check that this isn’t the case.
I've received insufficient compensation!
If you believe you've received insufficient compensation in resolution of a problem, you should use Resolver to contact your provider's customer services department.
Ofcom proposals 2017
Ofcom has proposed new changes that may come into effect early next year. These changes mean that broadband issues must be fixed by your provider within two working days. If not, you may receive compensation of £10 for every calendar day that service isn’t restored, with payments of £30 for missed engineer appointments and £6 per day for a new connection that hasn’t been installed on time. Broadband providers have previously attempted to block these plans, but it remains to be seen as to whether they will be implemented or not.
My direct debit payment has bounced!
If your direct debit payment has bounced, you should contact your broadband provider immediately as you may incur a charge for the bounced payment – and, annoyingly, you might even incur a late payment charge as well! Some companies will try to re-take the payment 10 days later – double-check your supplier’s billing policy. If you think you have been unfairly charged for a bounced or late payment, you should contact your broadband provider’s customer services department, giving clear details of your case (such as what happened, when it happened, and why you are complaining).
I've been on hold for ages!
If you find that you’ve been unable to contact your provider’s customer services call centre, you can use Resolver to contact the company and inform them of the problem. You should explain clearly what happened, giving details of the time of the incident. Trading standards allow 14 days for a response.
You may also want to consider calling outside of peak times – our experience is that midday is a good time to try busy call centres!
If the broadband provider isn’t able to resolve the problem to your satisfaction, you can make a request under subject access for the information kept on file about you and for any recorded calls concerning your issue. The company can charge you £10 for this, but it will provide useful information in the event that you need to escalate your problem!
How to succeed with call centres
If you find that you’re struggling to get the help you need through call centres, we recommend that you tell the customer service agent that you want to log a formal complaint through their head office! Most broadband suppliers want to fix your issue internally – it may just require a bit of prompting!
I'm suddenly paying more for my broadband
Your broadband service provider should make any charges clear to you before you sign your contract. There shouldn’t be any hidden charges, and you should be notified of any increases in price that are allowed for under the contract. If you find that you have been unfairly charged, you should consider using Resolver to contact your provider.
How do I cancel my broadband contract?
If you want to cancel your broadband contract, you can use Resolver to contact your ISP. Be warned that you have to follow the cancellation terms in your contract! These may mean you’ll be charged, normally for the outstanding amount of the contract – unless, of course, you’re in the first 14 days of your contract, your ISP has increased your monthly bill (more than would account for inflation), your ISP has broken the terms of your contract, or you’re no longer within the minimum terms of your contract.
In some cases, you may think the terms of your contract are unfair. Unfair contract terms are forbidden under the Unfair Contract Terms Act, meaning you will not be held to an unfair contract. This is tricky, however, as only a court can ultimately rule that a contract is unfair. We advise you to seek all other forms of resolution first.
If you think your broadband provider is trying to charge you unfairly for terminating your contract, Resolver can help you file your complaint with our free tool. Generally, we advise you to always read the small print. Broadband providers should always be honest and clear regarding any charges resulting from cancellation.
I'm worried about my personal information
Broadband suppliers have to take steps to protect your information. If you suspect that they have not done this, you have the right to make a complaint. This is fairly rare, though – broadband providers generally want to avoid any criminal charges!
Can I add a name to my account?
If you find that you need to add a name to your account, you should use Resolver to get in touch with your service provider.
How do I change my address?
Give your provider’s billing department a call! They should be able to walk you through the process without any problems. Very rarely, the broadband provider will insist that you terminate the account and start again with a new one. This doesn’t happen often, so don’t panic!
How can I downgrade my package?
It should be easy to downgrade your services, although it will depend whether you are tied into a contract. If this is the case you will need to pay an early termination fee, unless your service provider considers your new services to be an equal-value alternative. If you are not in a fixed-contract period then you may need to give sufficient notice to change (normally 28 days). The period of notice required will be set out in your contract of services. Contact your supplier who will be able to advise you regarding whether you must give notice that you wish to downgrade. If you are unhappy with your provider’s service, you should contact their customer services department and give clear details of your case - such as what happened, when, and why you are complaining.
Be aware that your provider may consider the downgrade the start of a new contract period – you may be liable for charges if you choose to switch provider. We advise you to always read the small print! Your broadband provider should be upfront with you regarding any charges.
Broadband data usage limits
Some broadband packages apply a limit on the amount of data you can upload or download from the internet. The amount of data usage measured on your line can be affected by the number of devices being used on your network at any one point, and the kind of things you’re doing – if you’re using video streaming services, for example, you’ll use more data than someone who only uses the internet to send emails.
If you feel that your broadband provider is allowing you less broadband usage than you are contractually entitled to, you should use Resolver to launch a complaint.
Broadband complaints tool
You can raise issues with 38 companies in Broadband services
Key companies include: