Broadband and landline faults and problems

Published: 13 October 2023

Are you having problems with your home phone or broadband?

Is your broadband service much slower than it used to be? Have you started having problems connecting, or is there a fault on your phone line?

We know how frustrating it can be when things go wrong. If you’re having problems, this guide explains how you can get them sorted.

Have you made any recent changes?

Simple changes around your home can affect the speed of your broadband connection. These can include:

Putting in a telephone extension lead or changing your wiring. Extension leads can cause interference which lowers your speed. If you have to use an extension lead, use a new, high quality cable with the shortest possible length. Tangled and coiled cables can also affect speeds.

Microfilters. Microfilters look like little white boxes and split the phone and broadband signals so that they don't affect each other. They should be plugged into every phone socket you use in your home.

Adding new electrical devices. Halogen lamps, electrical dimmer switches, stereo or computer speakers, fairy lights, TVs, monitors and AC power cords have all been known to affect routers. Keep your router as far away as possible from other electrical devices, as well as those which emit wireless signals (such as cordless phones or baby monitors).

Moving your router off the floor. Try to place your router on a table or shelf rather than on the floor. Reducing the number of obstacles between your router and computer will give you a better wireless range.

Carrying out building work. Increasing the number or thickness of walls between the router and the devices that you use could also affect your broadband speeds.

If you believe any of the above could be the cause of your problems, contact your provider. They should be able to offer advice on how to improve your service. You can also read our practical tips for improving your broadband speed.

If you bought your phone/broadband service online or over the phone and change your mind about your contract, you can cancel the service up to 14 days after you enter the contract.

If the broadband speeds you are getting are far below the original estimate your provider gave you, you might be protected under the voluntary Code of Practice that applies to most internet service providers.

Is the problem with the network or the equipment?

Sometimes the problem lies with the equipment your provider has given you, or the software loaded onto it. Older routers can cause connection problems and might need to be upgraded to the latest model or require a software update. If you think there is a problem with your router, contact your provider. But be aware: some providers might charge you for a replacement, so check this first.

Your provider might be able to detect any technical problem by accessing your router remotely. This often removes the need to send out an engineer.

Your provider might ask you to connect your computer directly to the phone line with an Ethernet cable (a computer networking cable – often yellow – which should give you a faster, more reliable connection). This helps establish whether there is a line fault.

Your provider might also carry out a line speed test to see what speed you are actually getting. You can also do this yourself. Ofcom-accredited price comparison sites and have speed checkers .

Try to use different devices to see if you experience the same problem with each. If the problem seems to be affecting one device more than others, check you have the latest security software installed. Computer viruses and malware can slow a device down.

Is the problem affecting others?

The problem might be more widespread than just your phone or broadband connection.

Most providers offer a service or status checker – either online or through an app – listing known, major network problems.

This information should also be available by phone – either via an automated message or from your provider’s customer service team. Often this information will tell you when they expect the problem  to be fixed.

If your problem is not listed on the service checker, contact your provider as they might not be aware of it.

If you have been without the level of service you were promised, you might be able to claim some form of compensation – see below.

Moving home?

If you are moving home, check what kind of service your provider can offer at your new address.

If your provider cannot offer the level of service you need at your new address, ask them how much you would need to pay if you wanted to cancel. Not all companies would require you to pay an early termination charge in these circumstances.

Who is responsible for fixing the fault?

Your contract is with your provider, so they are responsible for ensuring faults are fixed and for keeping you up to date on progress.

What if my provider doesn’t own the network?

Even if another company (such as Openreach) manages the network through which your service is provided, you only need to deal with your provider.

Your provider might need to send an engineer to your property to carry out checks. This person could be from your own provider or Openreach. If your provider needs to send an engineer then they should tell you in advance if they charge for such visits. If they do charge, they should tell you when you might be expected to pay and how much (for example if the fault is found to be with your equipment). Not all providers charge for engineer visits.

If you were promised an engineer visit but they didn’t turn up, complain to your provider as they might offer compensation. If you need to change the appointment time, let your provider know as quickly as you can in advance.

How long should I wait for a repair?

In most cases, your provider should be able to find out reasonably quickly what has gone wrong. If it is a network service fault, they should tell you how and when it will be fixed. If they are not the owner of the network, they will need to deal with that company on your behalf.

Ask your provider how they will keep you up to date on progress. This might be through their customer services team, a service app or by registering for fault update alerts. Give your provider reasonable time to fix the problem.

Priority fault repair

Landline and fixed [or home] broadband providers offer a priority fault repair service for customers who depend on their telephone or broadband connection because of their disability and have an urgent need for a repair.

If you do not have this priority fault service but would like it, contact your provider to discuss getting this set up.

Staying connected while faults are sorted

Ask your provider if they offer other ways of accessing your service while repairs are being made.  They might offer call divert, or you might be able to download an app that will allow you to access services via your mobile device.

Am I entitled to compensation?

Depending on the circumstances, it might be appropriate for your provider to offer you some money back while repairs are being made.

Where repairs take much longer (for example if they need to dig up roads or get permission to access land to carry out fixes), you might be entitled to an additional refund or account credit.

If you have been without the service for some time, you might also have the right to leave the contract without penalty. There might be a term in your contract saying you can do this if your provider has failed in its obligations to you or breached a key condition.

If the broadband speeds you are getting are far below the original estimate your provider gave you, you might be protected under the voluntary Code of Practice that applies to most internet service providers.

Automatic compensation

Broadband and home phone customers will get money back from their service provider for delayed repairs, missed engineer appointments and delays with the start of a new service – without having to ask for it.

For more information on automatic compensation, see our guide.

How do I complain?

If your provider fails to repair a fault by the date promised, or you are unhappy with how long it is taking, follow their formal complaints procedure. This should be explained on their website or by their customer services team.

If your problem is still unresolved after eight weeks, you can complain to an independent Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme. Ask your provider for a ‘deadlock’ letter so that you can refer your dispute to the relevant ADR scheme directly before the eight week mark.

Ofcom has approved two ADR schemes: CISAS and Communications Ombudsman.

Your provider will tell you which scheme it is a member of, or you can use our ADR checker.

Tell Ofcom

If you have experienced faults or delayed repairs, please let us know by filling out our short monitoring form.

Although Ofcom does not investigate individual complaints, your help in highlighting problems plays a vital part in our work and we may investigate a company if monitoring data reveals a particular problem.

Most providers offer several ways to contact them about a fault. These include by phone, online, a ‘live chat’ function or a service app.

Contact your provider as soon as possible and try to describe the fault as best you can. Talk through the checks you have already carried out and explain how the problem is affecting your use of the service.

You might need to explain:

  • the times of day the problem occurs;
  • how long the service is affected for;
  • if the problem is continual or intermittent; and
  • for broadband, whether it only happens when you use a lot of data (when a downloading film, for example).

If possible, send your provider a record of the interruptions to your service and the length of time each interruption lasted.

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