Having problems with a phone or broadband service is a frustrating experience for all of us. While there is no such thing as a completely consistent and fault-free service, your provider is expected to offer the best service they can, and make sure they are doing everything in their power to provide you with the service you signed up for. It’s important to know your rights, and what to do if you ever need to make a complaint.
If once you are set up on a new contract you do not feel you are receiving the level of service you expected, you can usually cancel it without penalty for up to two weeks after you have entered into it.
Communications service providers in the UK are expected to follow the law when it comes to changing the terms of their contracts. They are allowed to change the terms of your contract while it is running, as long as they give you one month’s notice detailing the changes they are going to make. This includes mid-contract price rises.
If you aren’t willing to accept a price rise in the middle of your contract, you are entitled to cancel your contract without paying a penalty.
If you believe that your provider has not followed these requirements, or that any of the terms of your contract are unfair, you have a right to complain.
Your provider is responsible for fixing faults and also has an obligation to keep you informed about the progress of repairs. If you are experiencing a fault with your phone (either mobile or landline) or broadband, you should contact your service provider as quickly as possible, giving them as much detail as you can about the fault. The more information you can provide them, the more likely it is that they will be able to fix the fault more quickly.
Initially, your provider is likely to want you to check your equipment for them. This could be your mobile handset or broadband router, such Vodafone’s Broadband Router. They are likely to ask you to perform a number of checks which might eliminate the problem. This will be done remotely, so nobody will have to visit your home.
However, if this does not solve the problem, it’s worth visiting your provider’s website or app to see if they offer a “service checker” or “status checker”. This will list any known problems in your area, and usually let you know when you can expect it to be fixed. If the problem is not listed, you should contact your provider as soon as possible to make them aware of it.
How long to wait before complaining
Most problems should be identified and fixed fairly quickly. It’s important to give your provider a reasonable opportunity to fix the fault, but they are supposed to keep you updated. If they fail to do this, or if repairs are taking longer than expected, you have the right to complain. You are also entitled to complain if they have arranged to send an engineer to your property and the engineer doesn’t turn up.
Your provider may be able to offer you an alternative means of accessing your service while the fault is being repaired. They may also offer you some money back or a credit on your account if you are unable to use the service while repairs are being carried out. If you are without the service for some time, you may be able to leave your contract without paying a penalty.
When and how to complain
If you are unhappy with any aspect of the service you are receiving, whether it is changes to your contract or the length of time a fault has taken to fix, in the first instance you should contact your provider’s customer service department to find out how to go through their formal complaints procedure.
If your provider has failed to find a solution to your problem eight weeks after your initial complaint, you can take your case to an independent Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme. There are two approved schemes in the UK; Ombudsman Services: Communications and CISAS. All UK communications providers have to belong to one of these schemes; your provider will be able to tell you which scheme it is a member of.
Sometimes it is possible to hurry the process along if your provider is unable to fix the problem before the eight-week deadline. If you ask them to provide you with a “deadlock” letter, you can take your case to the relevant ADR as soon as you have it, with no need to wait the full eight weeks.
Once your case is in the hands of an ADR, they will consider all the evidence from both sides and come to what they see as the fairest solution for both parties. This may involve you being offered an apology, being provided with a service or being compensated financially.
If you accept the ADR’s decision, your service provider has 28 days to act on the requirements of the ruling. If you are not happy with the ADR’s judgment and reject it, you can still pursue your case through the courts, where you might receive a different outcome.