By Warren Pryer, Equinox
Poor quality broadband connection or sub-standard service from your telecoms provider creates a business headache you can do without.
When problems arise, you need to complain. Let’s consider what you can do and how you can get compensation.
Let your provider know when is going on
As soon as you notice a problem, make a note of what you perceive the problem to be, and when it started. Contact them to tell them of the issue; it is from this point that the compensation clock starts ticking. Different companies have different times as their deadline for that day (otherwise the clock starts the next working morning), so check with your providers about when you have to report an issue by.
Review your telecoms contract
Particularly if you’re working through a reseller or broker, check what your contract says. Their terms and conditions may differ from the actual telecoms provider.
If you didn’t read your contract in full before you signed it that doesn’t mean all is lost. They aren’t likely to let you out of the contract (at least not willingly), but they may apply credits to your account if something is clearly not as it should be.
Providers’ Automatic compensation schemes
Many companies are signing up for Ofcom’s automatic compensation scheme[i], or setting up their own.
Since 1st April 2019, BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Zen Internet have agreed to provide set compensation levels after set periods of time. Vodafone has set up its own, with the same compensation payments[ii]. However, these are residential schemes, not for businesses who have experienced poor service.
BT has set up an automatic compensation scheme[iii] for their business customers; let’s hope others follow.
Complain via Social Media
Business reputation is worth a great deal so if you take your complaint to social media, there’s a good chance that telecoms providers, including resellers and brokers, will act to resolve the matter. Responding to your complaint publicly is good for their image and so most companies will do whatever they can to resolve the issue.
If they don’t, use LinkedIn to find senior management and complain directly to them.
Ofcom is the UK’s regulatory body for the telecoms industry. They’ve produced General Conditions of Entitlement[iv]. These are written to protect your business and provide a standard minimum level of service around complaints.
If you don’t get any joy from your telecoms provider, try mentioning these general conditions and see what happens. Alternatively, call Ofcom on 020 7981 3040.
If you aren’t getting anywhere with your telecoms provider, you can make a formal complaint.
Telecoms providers must be members of an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme. They act as an adjudicator or middleman between you and the telecoms provider. Their decision is final and cannot be overturned or appealed. However, that doesn’t stop you seeking legal advice if you don’t accept the decision.
If the ADR does agree with your complaint, they can order the service provider to make compensation payments, to fix the issue or take other steps.
There are two ADRs in the UK:
Before you make a complaint, however, you must ensure you have met the following conditions[vii]:
- You have already complained to the company in the first instance
- You are based in the United Kingdom (and not the Republic of Ireland).
- At least eight weeks have passed since you first complained to them or you have received a deadlock letter
- Your complaint is not in relation to fraud, property damage, discrimination or data protection
- Your complaint is not the subject of court action
- You understand that it is your responsibility to ensure you have read the scheme rules, guidance notes and process
In the end you can always walk away and move your business to a different telecoms provider. If you need a complex service this may need some time dedicated to it, but it can be a worthwhile exercise. You may find, of course, that with a complex/valuable contract your current provider will offer improved terms to keep you as a customer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Warren Pryer is from independent telecoms brokerage Equinox. Equinox works with companies, charities and other organisations to help them choose the right telecoms packages for their needs and thereby reduce their costs. Equinox is particularly knowledgeable on the integration of IT and telecoms in business. www.equinoxcomms.co.uk
[vii] These are the CISAS conditions https://www.cedr.com/consumer/cisas/make-a-complaint/ but are very similar to those of Ombudsman Services.