Your broadband consumer rights

We all have rights as consumers and that applies to broadband as much as it does to any other product or service. This is a subject that can seem complex and difficult but really, if you stick to some basic

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What are my broadband consumer rights?

Your broadband consumer rights are more or less the same as your other rights as a consumer.

The service you get should be or merchantable or satisfactory quality. It should work and be delivered as described.

You provider must meet the terms and conditions of the contract – and you’ll need to do your part as well, which basically means not doing anything that might compromise the service, like allowing your dog to chew through the phone line. There is honestly not that much you can do to mess up as a broadband consumer.

The deal you are offered must be fair and even if you sign-up for a contract that runs for one, two or even three years, you should have the right to cancel it. This, however, will usually mean you incur a cancellation fee. That’s part of the deal though. There are some short-term deals around, but they very few.

You have the right to cancel your contract if the ISP does not deliver the expected level of service – and that includes the speeds not being good enough. If you are not happy with performance, you need to contact them, but if service continues to be poor, you have the right to cancel.

If you get into a dispute with them and things get messy, you should be able to refer to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme of some kind, who you can contact if a dispute is dragging on.

They should also be a member of ISPA – the Internet Services Providers Association, which means that they are expected to abide by a specific code of conduct.

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Common broadband consumer rights queries

Performance will be the usual problem, and other obvious issues would be if the broadband is not working or only working some of the time. There could be a fault, but if you report it and it’s not fixed quickly – usually that will be within 10 days – you may have the right to compensation. You may also be entitled to make a claim if you receive the wrong or faulty equipment when you are setting up your broadband.

Other common problems include consumers being over-charged or charged for something they are not getting or feeling that they have been misled by advertising. Unexpected price rises are also a reason people complain – if the ISP has the right to raise prices, that should be clear in the contract. Some ISPs guarantee not to raise prices for the entire contacted period.

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I need to complain about my broadband service

Obviously, if you are not happy you need to contact your service provider. It’s a good idea to be prepared. You should try to spell out the nature of your problem or complaint clearly and in detail.

Having information such as your account and/ or contract number, the dates of your installation, and even things like the speeds that your service has been giving you at different times (you can find plenty of speed checkers online), to hand.

You should also be clear about what you want and will consider a satisfactory conclusion to your problem. Making it clear from the start that you wish to complain will help as the ISP will then need to invoke their official process for managing customer issues.

If you are determined to cancel your broadband contract you should make that very clear at the outset and provide definitive reasons for making your decision.

Be prepared to be persistent and methodical with your complaint. Most ISPs will try to be helpful and every service provider must respect your rights as a consumer. If they are members of the Internet Services Providers Association (ISPA) they should be following that organisation’s code of conduct and have a proper complaints procedure in place.

Part of this will be an obligation to respond to any customer complaints within five days – and to resolving it within ten days.

You may also want to keep a note of the steps you have followed to try and resolve your issue.

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How do I contact my broadband provider?

This is not always as easy as it should be. As a first step, there should be a way to contact customer services – you’ll may find this on their website, in a link provided in an email, or in any written correspondence. You should also find contact details on any bills you have been sent.

There may be a number you can call, but you can expect to be hanging on for a while and listening to the usual recorded messages.

Some providers may give you the option to enter into online chats with a customer support agent, either through an online dialogue box or a social media platform, such as Facebook or Twitter. If this is something you are happy to do, that’s fine. But you should also be aware that the job of these agents is to successfully conclude the conversation and resolve the issue; don’t say you are happy if you are not.

Some may also try to direct you to their Help section or FAQ pages. These can be useful for simple issues and basic questions. But they are usually of limited use if you have a real problem.

There should also be somewhere on their website where you can leave messages. But don’t expect to find an email address you can contact. For the provider, that’s just not an efficient way of dealing with customer queries and complaints.

If all else fails, you could try leaving reviews of your experiences on sites such as TrustPilot, or on Google. Or contacting consumer right organisations. Cancelling your direct debit will probably spark your ISP into life fairly quickly too, although if you do this and your service is still working in some capacity, you may be in breach of your terms and conditions.

If you really are not getting anywhere, you can contact the OFCOM-backed disputes resolution organisation, CISAS – cedr.com/cisas. Or the communications ombudsman – ombudsman-services.org/sectors/communications) about the problems you’ve experienced.

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