We will need to wait till 8pm tonight (Wednesday 30th October) to see exactly what BBC Watchdog covers in its show that is set to "investigate BT Openreach and their promises to keep the nation connected". We suspect the item will centre around the large variation in performance Openreach has been providing in terms of the length of time to repair faults and install new telephone and broadband services.
Coincidence or just random timing, Openreach has announced changes to its Service Level Agreement/Guarantee (SLA/SLG) that it offers for WLR Analogue, LLU MPF and ISDN2 appointments. The main change is that from the 1st November the first appointment will be made available within 12 working days compared to the current 13 working days. The presence of a SLG payment scheme may surprise some, and this represents what your service provider is compensated with if there is no appointment slot available, note this is not about missed appointments, but simply Openreach being too busy to even offer an install date.
"Updated SLG payment structure
"If we fail to make the first appointment available within 12 working days, this will result in an SLG payment of £2, for each of (working) days 13, 14 and 15. For example, if the first available appointment is on day 15, then an SLG of £6 (3 times £2) would be payable.
If the availability of the first appointment goes beyond SLA+3 (i.e. beyond 15 working days), an SLG payment of £4 per day will apply for the whole period from (working) day 13 onwards, up to where the first appointment is available. For example, if the first available appointment is on day 19, then an SLG of £28 (7 times £4) would be payable."Extract from Openreach Briefing to Communication Providers
We do see people complaining about long lead times for service installs, but to date there has been little evidence of any compensation rolling back up the chain to the consumer. There are payments that will be made if Openreach miss an appointment and while we have seen providers quick to levy any abortive visit charges (where you were out when the engineer called), it is rare to see people talk about the compensation.
"All changes will be implemented on 1 August 2013.
Existing Price Revised Price Abortive Visit Charges £85.00 £90.00 Missed Appointment Payment £40.00 £45.00 OSA FSP3000 Abortive Visit Charge £745.00 £750.00
The change to the Abortive Visit Charge reflects inflationary changes in costs. However, Openreach has recognised that it is fair to make an equal change to the payment it makes to customers when an appointment fails due to Openreach issues."Openreach Abortive Visit Charges/Compensation
The levels of separation that put Openreach out of contact with the consumer are not helping, as the compensation often appears to get lost, and it is sometimes not clear if a problem is down to a wrong order code from the retailer/wholesaler or a simple mistake by Openreach. All that matters to the consumer is that installs are done on time and faults fixed within a reasonable timeframe, and the retail providers who ultimately are taking the money from the consumer or SME need to step up there game, both in compensating the consumer and improving how they interact with Openreach and other wholesale partners.
For Openreach specifically a lot of the problems are down to size of the workforce and maintaining legacy infrastructure while also trying to roll-out new infrastructure. Throwing contractors at the problem might help in the short term, but more full-time staff are needed, but that means higher costs and increasing Openreach pricing at a time when politicians and communications providers are saying Openreach charges too much looks to be impossible task.