UK ISPs will automatically compensate customers for shoddy service

The scheme comes into effect in 15 months.

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A poor level of customer service shown by your broadband or landline provider is like a late train. You know you could probably argue your way into some nominal refund, but it just seems more trouble than it's worth. The issue with that is there's no incentive to ensure the train runs on time, so earlier this year, Ofcom floated the idea that telecoms providers should compensate customers for poor service automatically, no complaints necessary. Today the regulator announced that BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Zen Internet -- which cover 90 percent of broadband and landline customers between them -- have "agreed" to be part of such a scheme.

Unfortunately, the proposals don't have your back if your internet is just a bit rubbish from time to time. If your broadband or landline completely dies and hasn't been revived within two working days, however, you'll get £8 in compensation for every following day your service remains down. If an engineer doesn't turn up for an appointment, or cancels less than 24 hours before they were due to show, that's £25 headed your way. Finally, if a provider says your new broadband or landline service will be up and running on a particular day and doesn't deliver, you get £5 for every day you're disconnected "including the missed start date."

A fiver automatically credited to your account might go largely unnoticed, but you can bet it's within a company's interests to improve its service to avoid paying out 100,000 fivers. Providers have a while to get to grips with what's expected of them, though. "Launching the first ever automatic compensation scheme for telecoms customers will be complex, and requires significant changes to providers' billing systems, online accounts and call centres. So, there will be a 15-month implementation period before it comes into effect to ensure a smooth introduction," Ofcom said.

Automatic compensation is something providers have "agreed" to, insinuating the commitment is voluntary on their part. But they best not forget that a regulator's job is to regulate, should it come to that. "Ofcom will closely monitor the industry scheme, and review it one year after being implemented to ensure it's working for consumers. If not, we will step in."