Orkney MSP Liam McArthur is backing calls by consumers rights charity, Which? for the introduction of a statutory scheme of compensation for telecoms consumers, when things go wrong.
It follows publication of a provisional Ofcom report into the UK’s digital communications markets.
The telecoms sector currently has no statutory or minimum compensation standards for poor service and the compensation schemes that do exist are unclear and inadequate. Compensation schemes in other utilities are more transparent. If water, gas or electricity customers experience service problems they are entitled to statutory compensation.
Mr McArthur believes that people in Orkney, who have been reporting wide ranging faults in phone and broadband service, should have greater clarity around the compensation they can expect for such disruption.
In a written parliamentary question, Orkney’s MSP asked the Scottish Government “whether it has made representations to the UK Government in relation to the introduction of a statutory telecoms scheme to automatically offer compensation to consumers in Scotland when the service falls below expectations.” Responding to Mr McArthur, John Swinney MSP confirmed the Scottish Government “has not made any specific representations to the UK Government around such a compensation scheme.”
Commenting, Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur said:
“There is an increasing reliance on good phone and broadband connections. When things don’t work, the disruption is therefore more serious.
“This is reflected in the growing number of complaints I have received over recent months about the quality of service and the time it takes to get problems fixed. Sometimes faults are beyond anyone’s control, such as when lightning strikes damage equipment. However, it is essential that these problems are then addressed as quickly as possible.
“Customers of other utilities companies have the right to claim compensation when a service fails to meet expectations. This does not apply in the same way for telecom customers. That seems unreasonable, particularly given the growing recognition that mobile phone and broadband service is essential to business and accessing a range of public services.
“Ofcom’s first review of the communications sector in 10 years provides an ideal opportunity to make changes. Enshrining the rights of consumers would seem to be an obvious place for decision makers to start”.
Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director said:
“We want to see compensation for telecoms failures brought in line with other utilities and consumers’ expectations. Compensation should be simple, easy and fair for consumers. In the forthcoming Digital Communications Review Ofcom has a real opportunity to ensure the telecoms sector works better for consumers.”