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Broadband, Mobile & Energy News: Weekly Roundup 14/09/18

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Here’s a roundup of the biggest headlines this week in the mobile, broadband, and energy markets:

Government Pledges to Protect EU Mobile Roaming Privileges After Brexit

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab announced Thursday that mobile networks Three and Vodafone have publicly committed to retaining free mobile roaming in the European Union for British customers, regardless of the outcome of Brexit negotiations. He also pledged that the government would “legislate a limit” on roaming charges for customers on other networks in the event of a no-deal Brexit. However, he stopped short of committing to an outright ban on roaming charges, amid doubts that the UK could enforce legislation to prevent European mobile operators from levying fees on Britons abroad.

Since June 2017 British mobile subscribers, as citizens of the EU, have been able to use their minutes, texting, and data allowances across the continent for no additional charge (although some restrictions are placed on data consumption, especially with mobile broadband devices). However, the future of free roaming has been cast in doubt as Britain’s negotiations with Brussels have stalled and odds are slashed on a no-deal exit. The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019.

Advertising Standards Authority Bans ‘Misleading’ Vodafone Broadband Ad

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned TV, radio, and online advertisements for Vodafone’s home broadband, saying information about the ISP’s Ultimate Speed Guarantee is “misleading.”

Under the promotion, subscribers can claim 15% off their monthly bill if speeds on Vodafone’s fibre optic broadband fall below a certain level. However, the guarantee applies only to sync speed, the downstream speed between the local telephone exchange and a customer’s router, and doesn’t take into account other variables which can affect broadband performance, including speed over WiFi and, crucially for the online video gaming depicted in the TV spots, upload speed and latency. The ASA’s ruling expressed concerns that customers would experience buffering and slow speeds but not qualify for the discount.

The ads feature actor Martin Freeman playing an online game, which loses connection at a key moment, as his friend exhorts him to “Just get Vodafone.”

A Vodafone spokesperson said the company was “disappointed” by the ASA’s ruling and that they believe the “TV and radio ads created a scenario that customers would understand to represent broadband speed and the relatable frustrations experienced.”

Small Energy Supplier Gen4U Collapses

Micro energy supplier Gen4U has ceased trading, Ofgem has announced. Gen4U has been in financial difficulty nearly since it was launched in October 2016 and recently had withdrawn all its tariffs from the market.

The Bradford-based company supplied 500 domestic customers. Energy regulator Ofgem has appointed supplier Octopus Energy to take over those accounts. Octopus Energy will be contacting those customers in the coming days.

Ofgem said supply would continue as usual for Gen4U’s customers and credit balances would be protected. Customers are advised not to switch supplier until after the transfer to Octopus energy is complete.

The cost of assigning those customers to the “supplier of last resort” will be felt across all energy bills.

The collapse of Gen4U comes amid a string of failures from minnow energy suppliers, including that of beleaguered supplier Iresa in July. Although more than a fifth of all British households are now supplied by smaller energy firms, as the market share of the Big Six has fallen, the market has tightened recently. Small energy companies have struggled to cope with rising wholesale energy prices and have been dogged by accusations of poor customer service.

Following the series of failures and customer service controversies from small suppliers, Ofgem is undertaking a review of its licensing system and is expected to reverse some of the changes that opened the energy market up to competition in 2004.

Data of TV Licensing Customers Potentially Compromised

TV Licensing has urged all customers who entered personal details into the authority’s website between 29 August and the afternoon of 5 September to check their bank and building society statements, after it admitted transactions made during that period “weren’t as secure as they should have been.”

A technical update compromised security on the website between those dates. The authority took the website down while the issue was investigated but not before the payment and personal details of 25,000 customers were sent unencrypted. While debit and credit card details still would have been encrypted throughout the transaction, other personal details including names, addresses, emails, bank details, account numbers, and sort codes could have been accessed.

TV Licensing said it “found no evidence of any attack” or “any unauthorised access to information,” but said it was advising customers of the potential data breech out of an abundance of caution. It said it would compensate any customers who suffered financial loss as a result of their personal information being exposed.

Zen Internet and Plusnet Top Customer Service Poll

Service-conscious ISP Zen Internet and budget broadband provider Plusnet have topped MoneySavingExpert.com's biannual customer service poll.

MSE quizzed 7,000 customers about the customer service of their internet provider over the previous six months. 94% of respondents rated Zen’s customer service as ‘great.’ 58% of polled subscribers rated Plusnet’s service as ‘great.’

Andrew Fryatt, managing director at Zen, welcomed the accolades.

"We believe in doing things differently, putting people first and making great customer support a top priority. We regularly win awards for our service and support, and results like this one just confirm that we're doing something right,” he said.

TalkTalk came bottom of the league again, with 38% of their customers rating their customer service as ‘poor’ and only a quarter saying it was ‘great.’ A TalkTalk spokesperson said the results were “disappointing” but noted the company had recently rolled out “major customer service improvements,” including closing call centres in India and introducing new online troubleshooting tools for customers.

Lauren Smith
Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith has worked as a journalist and copywriter for most of the last decade, covering technology, energy, and consumer rights, in the US and UK.

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