BT Faces Fines If It Fails To Fix Most Phone And Broadband Faults Within Two Days

bt openreach

BT engineers will have to fix or install your broadband and phone on time or face fines if new rules are approved in 2014.

Telecoms regulator Ofcom wants to make sure that BT Openreach hits its targets for four out of five repairs and installations requested by ISPs, by April 2016.

Openreach, which looks after the ‘last mile’ between BT exchanges and customers, will have limits on how much it can blame extreme weather like the St Jude’s Storm for delays.

Ofcom said: “For the first time, Ofcom is proposing direct sanctions against Openreach if it fails to deliver against targets in future. We have been concerned about how long Openreach is taking to complete repairs and installations.

“These new rules would mean most telephone and broadband users must see their service repaired within a couple of days.”

The proposed rules require Openreach to fix faults within one or two days of being notified by a customer’s ISP, and to install new lines within 12 working days.

They’ll only be allowed to allowed to blame bad weather for missing targets for three per cent of repairs and one per cent of of installations.

The targets will cover around two-thirds of faults and installations from the middle of next year, rising in stages to about 80 per cent by April 2016.

They come as Ofcom also investigates disputes between Openreach and both Sky and TalkTalk over compensation for its alleged failure to provide compensation on fair and reasonable terms.

Sky said Openreach’s proposals are only the beginning of encouraging Openreach to meet the standards expected by the public.

“The service delivered by Openreach is an issue that impacts thousands of consumers every day,” said Sky. “While we welcome Ofcom’s action to impose minimum quality standards, we’re concerned that some of its proposals do not match up to customers’ expectations.

“As Ofcom’s own research shows, most people do not regard 12 working days as an acceptable standard for installing a new telephone line and it is well short of the goals we set in our own business. We believe that Openreach can and should be required to do better.”

But BT warned that while it already meets these targets on a regular basis – and compensates ISPs like Sky and TalkTalk if it doesn’t – any improvements will need more income from the cost of providing line rental and broadband.

BT said: “There is nothing terribly new here as service level agreements have existed for many years with Openreach compensating ISPs if it doesn’t deliver against targets. The fact is that it does meet those targets on a regular basis.

“Openreach is focused on customer service but it has to be recognised that improvements come with a price tag. Openreach’s charges are already amongst the lowest in the world – allowing UK consumers and businesses to enjoy very low prices – so the challenge is balancing those low prices with an increased focus on service.”

Ofcom’s consultation on Fixed access market reviews: Openreach quality of service and approach to setting LLU and WLR Charge Controls follows two wider studies of the UK’s broadband and phone industry by the regulator.

It’s open for responses until February 13, 2014, and Ofcom will announce its final decision in spring 2014.

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