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Last updated: 21 May 2021
It is important to know what your rights are as a consumer when it comes to your broadband. Although you will have signed a legally binding contract with your broadband provider
, you should know where you stand if you have a complaint or want to cancel your contract. Our useful guide will outline what your rights are so that you can easily solve a dispute you might have with your broadband provider.
What are my rights as a broadband customer?
Although many broadband providers want to provide the best possible service for their providers, Ofcom discovered more people complain about their broadband than landline and mobile phone contracts. Many problems arise from consumers not reading the details of their contract, so be sure to have read the small print before you sign up for a new broadband deal. Understanding your basic rights as a consumer will help you to make an effective complaint if and when you need to.
At a basic level, your consumer rights when it comes to broadband are as follows:
- Both you and your broadband provider must comply with the terms of the contract.
- The contract with your broadband provider must be fair.
- The goods and services you are provided with, i.e. your broadband, should be fit for purpose, as described and of satisfactory quality. In a nutshell, your broadband should work!
- Broadband providers must be signed up to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme to help mediate disputes.
There are some important pieces of legislation to be aware of that give you these rights such as:
- The Communications Act 2003: means providers must be signed up to an ADR so that an ombudsman can step in to help solve disputes between consumers and providers.
- Consumer Contracts Regulations: These give you rights when you make any online purchase. In this case, you are given 14 days to cancel your broadband contract from the date you signed up.
- The Consumer Rights Act 2015: this relates to the quality of goods and services you receive and states that they must be ‘fit for purpose, as described and of satisfactory quality’. If you can provide evidence that your broadband doesn’t meet these criteria then you will be able to cancel your contract and receive compensation.
Before you complain make sure you have read and understood the terms of service in your contract with your broadband provider. If you think you are within your rights to complain then your first step should be to contact your broadband provider. A lot of the time problems can be sorted out with one phone call to your supplier. If problems persist then send a letter or an email to your supplier, with all of your details and account number, outlining the problems and including any photos, bills or paperwork that may be relevant. Remember to keep a record of all the contact you have with your supplier.
If you still don’t receive any help from your broadband supplier, then you can contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service. You can visit the Citizens Advice website for advice on what to do next.
When contacting your provider and Citizens Advice fails then it may be time to contact one of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) schemes – Ombudman Services: Communication or CISAS. You can complain to the ADR schemes once you’ve already complained to your broadband company and either, you are not happy with their decision, or, you haven’t been given a decision for 8 weeks.
Useful tips when you have a broadband dispute
When complaining to the ADR schemes it helps if you have followed all complaint procedure correctly and have kept a record of all correspondence with your broadband supplier. Here are our key tips to help you get a favourable decision:
- Follow your broadband provider’s complaint procedure correctly.
- Complain to your provider in writing, via letter or email, and keep the times and dates of any phone calls you had with your provider.
- List your case chronologically.
- If your provider has not replied to your correspondence within their own stated guidelines make a note of it.
- Keep a record of any financial costs incurred directly or indirectly as a result of the problem.
- If you want to be compensated for your time, then be sure to keep a record of the length of time you took complaining.
There are useful organisations to help you resolve problems with your broadband providers, check their websites before you complain to see if they can help your particular case:
- Internet Services Providers Association (ISPA)
- Trading Standards
- HM Courts Service
Can I cancel my broadband?
Cancelling your broadband is easy, but it may come at a cost. Make sure you check the terms of your current contract before you opt to cancel. Most broadband providers will have a minimum contract length and if you cancel during that period you will have to pay a cancellation fee. The cost of this fee will depend on how much time you had left on your contract. If you are out of contract then there will be no cancellation fee and, if you have chosen a new provider, switching will be done for you at no extra cost.
There are a few ways in which you can cancel your broadband without a cancellation fee, even if you are within the minimum contract length:
- You can cancel your contract within 14 days of signing up during the ‘cooling off’ period.
- If your provider raises your monthly bill by more than inflation rises, then you can cancel without penalty within 30 days of the price change notification.
- If you believe your provider has breached the contract and hasn’t solved your issues, then you may be able to cancel without penalty.
Can I switch broadband providers because of slow speeds?
Slow broadband speeds are one of the main points of concern for customers when complaining about their broadband. You may feel that you have paid for faster broadband speeds but still be getting bad internet at certain times.
If you think that your broadband is too slow then take these steps:
- Check your broadband speed with a broadband speed test, these are generally available on the internet and your broadband provider will also usually have one available on their website or mobile apps.
- If you discover your broadband speeds are slow then next you should check your contract to find out what the minimum speeds stated are.
- If you’re still unhappy you can contact your provider to see if they can help improve your internet speed.
Once you have followed this step-by-step process and you still aren’t satisfied, you may have grounds to complain or cancel your contract. Follow the standard complaints procedure and if nothing improves then you have the right to cancel your contract without a penalty.
Common Broadband Complaints
My broadband isn’t working but I’m still being charged.
Occasionally your broadband service may be interrupted, either due to faults in the line or improvement works. This is not that uncommon and may be stated in your contract. Most of the time they will be fixed within a few hours, however, if you notice a problem be sure to contact your provider straight away. If your broadband is not back up and running quickly then you are entitled to complain. Depending on how long you are without internet you may be owed compensation or be allowed to cancel your contract free of charge.
The router I’ve been sent isn’t working.
If any of the hardware you are sent is faulty then contact your broadband provider straight away. They will generally send you replacement hardware or send an engineer to fix your faulty hardware at no extra cost. You may also be sent a refund if you had to pay any upfront costs for the hardware. If you have had the hardware for longer, then contact your provider’s tech support team to ask for a repair or replacement.
I think I’m being overcharged.
If you’ve been charged more than you’re supposed to be then you are entitled to a refund on the extra amount you paid. Be sure to check all correspondence with your internet service provider first to check if they had contacted you about a price rise. If not, then call your broadband provider’s customer service and inform them that you think your bill is too high. Usually, your provider will be able to resolve the issue but if you do not think they have handled the dispute correctly then it may be time to complain.
I feel like I’ve been misled by advertising.
Broadband providers are under strict regulation through Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to make sure they don’t confuse customers through their advertising. For example, they must give accurate pricing and download speed estimates. If you think you’ve been misled by an internet service provider’s advertising, make sure you inform them first and explain your position. If they do not help you to resolve your issue, then you can contact the ASA and give them the information on why you believe the advert to be misleading. You can also follow the standard complaints procedure.