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Internet deemed worthy of compensation by German court
Friday 25 January 2013 18:32:37 by Andrew Ferguson

In the UK the level of compensation can vary wildly between broadband providers, with some offering it when a lengthy fault is cleared and others only when the customer chases, with so much effort needed at times that getting the compensation becomes more a matter of principle.

A ruling by a German court of course does not apply to the UK, but it is interesting to see how the perception of how important Internet is considered these days, and it appears in Germany at least the Federal Court of Justice is happy to say that it is like receiving compensation to cover the costs of a rental car after an accident. The original article is available on www.sueddeutsche.de.

TechEye has covered the case, including the detail that the case arose from someone who had no internet access via 1&1 for two months in 2008 and 2009. Originally the consumer had wanted compensation of €50 a day, but expectations are that compensation will be more inline with the car rental example which would be 40% of the rental costs, so if service cost €20, the compensation may just be €8 a month.

In the past in the UK if your BT telephone line was not working for a period of time after a few days you got compensated by a sum that was equivalent to a months line rental for each day it was not working. The downward pressure on the overall costs of telephone has meant an end to this arrangement, with compensation for the normal consumer being much more a case of negotiation, and in the case of a two month outage one could reasonably expect a refund of all or most of your rental/subscription.

Things become more blurred as you get down to the more common issues where a broadband connection is offline for an hour, an afternoon or a day, added to this is the multiple layers of companies involved. The situation is easier for vertical operations like the Virgin Media cable network to handle where they have better visibility of the issues.

The more common complaint we see when there is a problem with broadband is that of Openreach raising charges when investigating intermittent faults where they state the fault is due to the end-users equipment or extension wiring, this can result in a bill of £100 to £200. Any formalised compensation system would have to carefully managed to avoid firms not increasing other charges in response, the general reason for compensation is to try and encourage providers to fix faults as soon as possible.

The question particularly if you use broadband for business is whether it is critical enough that paying extra for better service levels is worthwhile, or investing in backup arrangements which could be as simple as a mobile dongle for small firms or arrangements to use some of a neighbours connection. Around 93% of the UK has the choice of a BT Wholesale service and at least one LLU ADSL2+ service which would guard against many of the issues.

Comments

Posted by camieabz over 4 years ago
If I have ever complained about a such downtime, one generally gets the monthly bill, less days (x/30ths) disconnected. Single figures generally.

Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@camieabz The couple of problems I've had I have usually just been happy for it to work again, and my second ADSL line usually kept working.
Posted by Michael_Chare over 4 years ago
IMHO stiff penalties are a good way to ensure that a reliable service is provided, and that any problems are fixed promptly.
Posted by Spectre_01 over 4 years ago
Yes and raising the operating cost is one sure way to force the price of services up. Want a guaranteed service, pay for it - they do exist.
Posted by michaels_perry over 4 years ago
What is 'fair compensation'? In terms of the failure of goods or services, it is generally considered to be at least the cost of the failed equipment/service plus some compensation for the consequences of that failure.
Loss or interruption of a phone or internet service should be compensated in the same way, i.e. that cost of the service based on the monthly payment plus some consideration for the trouble caused. (contd)
Posted by michaels_perry over 4 years ago
Few ISPs, in my experience, even care that their service levels are rated as poor to extremely bad as long as the customers keep paying. I had a problem, reported it for five years, changed ISP and it was cleared within 2 days. No compensation from old ISP. Not good customer care.
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