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3rd September 2020

What are broadband consumers' rights?

Max Beckett
Max Beckett

Broadband expert

A guide to broadband consumer rights

Most of us rely on the internet for so many everyday activities that it’s a real headache when our broadband is not working as we’d expected. Understanding your broadband consumer rights will help you take action if something goes wrong.

What are my rights as a broadband consumer?

Just as with any service you sign up to, you have rights as a broadband consumer, and some responsibilities. These include:

  • All goods and services must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described. When it comes to broadband, this means the equipment and your connection should work properly, and you should get a decent internet speed.

  • The contract you signed with your broadband provider should be fair.

  • You and your broadband provider must comply with the terms of your contract.

  • You can cancel your broadband contract and leave your broadband provider early at any point – although you may have to pay a cancellation fee.

  • Your broadband provider must be registered with an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme. You can use this to help settle any disputes you haven’t been able to resolve directly with your provider.

How does the law help safeguard my broadband consumer rights?

The Consumer Rights Act 2015, Distance Selling Regulations and Communications Act 2003 all help to safeguard your rights as a broadband consumer.

  • It’s the Consumer Rights Act 2015 that states products must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described. As a broadband consumer, you’re legally entitled to a full refund or some money back if you can prove that your broadband service or equipment does not meet these standards.

  • Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013, you must be given clear information before you buy and get written information once you’ve made a purchase. If you applied for broadband online or over the phone, you have a right to cancel your broadband contract and get a full refund within a 14-day cooling off period. 

  • It’s the Communications Act 2003 that requires all internet service providers to register with an ADR scheme that consumers can use to escalate complaints if necessary. They must be a member of either Ombudsman Services: Communications or CISAS. You can find out which ADR scheme your provider is signed up to via government regulator Ofcom’s ADR checker.

Am I entitled to automatic compensation?

You may be entitled to compensation from your broadband provider without having to ask for it or make a complaint. The Automatic Compensation Scheme began in April 2019 and covers delayed repairs following a loss of service, missed repairs or engineer appointments, and delays to the start of a new service.

This scheme is a major step forward for broadband consumer rights. Not all providers have signed up yet, however. You can find out which ones are part of the scheme, and more information, here

I’m not happy with my broadband service – how do I complain?

Are you unhappy with your broadband installation? Is your broadband service slower than you’d been promised or do you think you’ve been overcharged? Are you looking to cancel your broadband contract or get your connection or equipment fixed? We’ll cover these issues individually and your rights as a broadband consumer later in this guide, but whatever your problem, the steps to resolving it are similar.

What’s the problem? 

The first step is to make sure you are clear on what your issue is and how you’d like it resolved. 

Can I fix it myself? 

Before you contact your broadband provider to discuss the issue, it’s worth checking out their website. Most providers include pages of frequently asked questions (FAQs) and trouble-shooting guides, covering the most common issues experienced by customers and what action to try.

You might find you can resolve your issue easily on your own, potentially saving yourself a lot of time and effort.

Contact your broadband provider

If you can’t figure out an answer via their website, the next step is to get in touch with your broadband provider’s customer services or technical support team. You can find their contact information on their website or on any emails or letters they may have sent you. You can do this by phone or webchat, or you may find that contacting them via their social media pages such as Twitter or Facebook gets a quicker response.

If your provider is a member of the ISPA (the Internet Service Providers’ Association), it must respond to your complaint within five working days and resolve the issue within 10.

File a formal complaint

If you’ve been in touch but don’t feel you’re getting anywhere, the next step is to put your complaint in writing via your broadband provider’s official channels. You’ll find these on their website or in the information you received when your contract was set up.

Escalate your complaint via the ADR scheme

Have you followed all the above steps and you’re still unhappy? If so, and it’s been eight weeks since you first complained, you can contact whichever ADR scheme your provider is signed up with and they will step in. You can find the relevant contact details for your provider’s ADR scheme via Ofcom’s ADR checker.

As a last resort, you can seek legal advice through channels such as the Citizens Advice Bureau.

What are the most common complaints from broadband consumers?

Ofcom regularly ranks broadband providers by the number of customer complaints each receives and it’s easy to check these out. 

For example, between July and September 2019 the most common things for broadband consumers to complain about were the way their providers handled complaints (32%), then faults, service and provisioning issues (31%), followed by issues relating to billing, pricing and charges (20%).

What are my broadband cancellation rights? 

You can cancel your broadband contract at any time. However, if you want to leave your broadband provider early, check what you’ll be charged. If you’re still within the minimum period of your contract, the fee could be as much as you’d pay if you stayed with it for the remaining months, so make sure you’re fully informed before you make your final decision.

You may be able to cancel your broadband for free in a few specific situations:

My contract started within the last 14 days

You can change your mind and cancel the contract in writing during this ‘cooling-off’ period.

My monthly charge has gone up by more than the rate of inflation

If this happens, you won’t be penalised as long as you cancel within 30 days of being notified of this increase.

My provider has breached our contract and not done enough to resolve my complaints

For example, if your broadband speed is much lower than you were advised when you signed up to your contract and cannot be fixed, you may be able to leave your broadband provider early and with no penalty. You must tell them in writing.

My broadband contract has expired

The good news is that since February 2020, all broadband providers must notify customers by letter, email or text when their contract is about to expire. This means you’re free to start shopping around for a better deal and can cancel the broadband contract you have in place.  

I’m not happy with my broadband installation

If your new broadband installation seems to be taking too long, if your router or other equipment is damaged or faulty or if the engineer damaged your property while installing it, here’s how to take action. 

My broadband installation is taking longer than I expected

Always check with your provider how long your broadband will take to install when you’re signing up for a new service. You can make a complaint if this ends up being longer than you were promised. 

My broadband equipment is faulty

If your router or any other equipment from your broadband provider is damaged or not working, contact their tech support team – you can find out how to do this via their website.

My property was damaged during my broadband installation

If this happens, make sure you let the engineer know, take photos of the damage and also advise your broadband provider as quickly as possible. They should arrange to repair any damage.

My broadband speed is slower than I was promised

When you sign up for a broadband service, your provider should provide clear information about the speed you can expect. If you don’t get the speed you were promised, and your provider cannot fix this within 30 days, you can cancel your broadband contract without any penalty.

This best-practice Ofcom Code of Conduct is voluntary, but many of the major broadband providers have signed up to it. You can find out which ones, and more information, by checking out the Ofcom Code of Conduct.

If your speed is slower than you had expected but your provider isn’t part of the voluntary code of conduct or the speed is not slow enough for you to leave your contract, then you might find some helpful information in this guide to broadband speeds.

I’m being overcharged for my broadband service

You are entitled to a refund if you’ve paid more than you agreed for your broadband service. If you think that’s happened, double-check your bill against your contract and any further messages you may have had from your provider about price changes. If you’ve definitely paid too much, contact their customer services team and ask them to investigate why your bill is higher than you think it should be.

If you can’t resolve it via customer services, you can escalate your complaint.

I’m not happy about my broadband provider’s price increase

Your broadband provider must let you know in writing if it plans to raise your monthly charges. If this increase is higher than the rate of inflation (the RPI or Retail Price Index), you’re entitled to cancel your broadband contract without any penalty. You must do this in writing within 30 days of being notified of the price increase. 

What are my rights if I share a house?

Usually, one person in the house must be the account holder, responsible for paying your broadband bills. They will also be responsible for making sure everyone pays their share – your broadband provider can’t get involved in any disputes.