Zen supports automatic compensation for customers
October 13, 2016
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At Zen we like to think we put our money where our mouths are when it comes to giving customers the best possible service.
For example, all our customer service and support staff take full ownership of any issues and faults and discuss all cases with their managers. The team will work hard to help resolve the fault as quickly as possible. Where appropriate a goodwill gesture will be offered to our customers to help accommodate the inconvenience caused. We think that’s only fair. But perhaps surprisingly, the issue of compensation is a hot topic among Internet Service Providers (ISP) right now, because industry regulator Ofcom is proposing to give consumers an automatic right to compensation when things go wrong.
Zen is one of a very few ISPs broadly supportive of the proposals. Here’s all you need to know.
What is Ofcom proposing?
We communicate, shop, bank and conduct business online these days, making a reliable internet connection increasingly essential to everyday life.
Ofcom thinks it is so important that it is proposing an automatic compensation scheme for customers who experience breaks in service or unacceptably slow speeds. That would bring ISPs into line with utility companies like water and energy suppliers.
Ofcom’s proposals state that customers have a right to compensation when they experience “a loss or reduction in service” but adds that not all faults will be covered and those that are, need to be “objectively defined and measured”.
Faults that are liable for compensation will need to originate with the ISP, rather than the customer’s own equipment or wiring.
“That’s similar to Zen’s own voluntary position. We’re generally happy to offer a goodwill gesture for poor connections when the problem is something within our control”, says Gary Hough, Zen’s Regulatory expert.
But not, he adds, “when it’s the result of, for example, actions customers have undertaken, such as internal wiring, software updates on hardware we haven’t recommended, or third party hardware we might not support.”
What’s in it for consumers?
So why is Ofcom making this proposal now?
Partly it’s because some ISPs make claiming compensation a long and arduous task.
Ofcom says that, at the moment, consumers generally have to make a complaint, prove they have received a substandard service, and then have the ISP agree.
The system can be longwinded and confusing, and complaints can take up a lot of time, effort and – in cases where the ISP challenges the complaint – money. Even then, the amount of compensation is likely to be small.
Ofcom states: “As a result, even engaged consumers who are negatively affected by a service issue may not consider it worth claiming redress.”
Ofcom’s proposed system would automate the process, making it much simpler for consumers to receive compensation when they experience poor service.
What do suppliers think?
Most ISPs are against automatic compensation.
They say it would actually drive up prices for consumers, as suppliers try to claw back money spent funding compensation claims. Service quality may also suffer, they claim, as suppliers divert funds from network support to customer pay outs.
There are also complexities around who, exactly, is to blame for service faults. Some providers don’t own any of the network they use, relying on third party infrastructure.
In that case, who is actually liable for compensation, the provider (who has an agreement with the consumer) or the company operating the underlying infrastructure (who doesn’t)?
What does Zen think?
We are committed to building a resilient network and fixing faults as soon as they occur, and think that our standards should also be industry standards. For those reasons we are broadly supportive of the principle of automatic compensation.
“Ofcom is still in the consultation process and we are waiting to see the details, such as what faults would attract automatic compensation. Some issues – like street cabinet vandalism, say, or flooding – are clearly beyond our control,” says Gary.
“But in general we think that ISPs should be happy to offer automatic compensation to customers when the fault is ours. We know that our residential and small business customers rely on a fast and reliable service from Zen. When something goes wrong it is only right that we both compensate customers and fix the fault as quickly as possible.”
How can Zen serve you better? Here’s what you told us…
Reply from a previously happy customer who has been with Zen over 10 years;
October 14, 2016 at 2:29 pm
Does this mean that if your previously loyal customers and staff once again experience months of degraded multiple download speeds and dramatically slow single thread download speeds during the working day, down from 75 mbps to 5 mbps, when the congestion through your London hub seriously inconveniences them, will you actually relent and allow these poor customers to leave your severely reduced service without having to pay an early exit penalty?