Broadband and landline faults and problems

15 October 2015

Are you having problems with your home phone or broadband?

Do you find 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?

Although no-one can guarantee an entirely fault-free service, your provider should be working hard to maintain the level of service they promised.

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.

It includes advice to you help identify the cause of faults and report them to your provider, as well as information about what your provider should do to fix the problem, and what they should do if this takes longer than expected.

Have you made any recent changes?

Simple changes around your home can sometimes 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 lower 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 in 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, baby monitors etc.

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 as 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 contract 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 receiving are significantly below the original estimate your provider gave you, you may have protections under the voluntary Code of Practice that covers most internet service providers

Is the problem with the network or the equipment?

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

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

They may ask you to connect your computer directly to the phone line using 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.

They may also carry out line speed tests to see what speed you are actually getting. You can also do this yourself. These Ofcom accredited price comparison sites Broadband.co.uk, broadbandchoices.co.uk, Cable.co.uk and Simplifydigital all 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 more than all the rest, check you have the latest security software installed as computer viruses and malware can slow device performance.

Is the problem affecting others?

The problem may be more widespread than just your phone/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 the problem is expected to be fixed.

If your problem is not on there, contact your provider as it may be they are not yet aware of it.
If you have been without the level of service you were promised, you may be able to claim compensation or other forms of redress - 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 isn’t able to provide the level of service you need at your new address, it’s worth asking them how much you would need to pay if you wanted to cancel or change your service. Companies’ policies on this differ; not all may require you to pay an early termination charge in these circumstances.

Who is responsible for fixing the fault?

Your contract is with your provider, and they are responsible for ensuring faults are fixed, and for keeping you informed of progress.

What if my provider doesn’t own the network?

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

Your provider may need to arrange for an engineer to come to your property to carry out checks. This person could be from your own provider or Openreach. If your provider needs to send out an engineer they should tell you in advance if they charge for such visits and, if so, 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 and they didn’t turn up, complain to your provider as they may 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 establish reasonably quickly what has gone wrong and, if it is a network service issue, tell you how and when it will be fixed. If they are not the owner of the network, they will need to liaise with that company on your behalf..

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

Some companies offer a priority fault repair service for customers who depend on the telephone because of ill-health or disability and have an urgent need for a repair.

If you haven’t got this priority fault service but would like to, contact your provider to discuss getting this set up.

Staying connected while faults are sorted

Check with your provider whether they offer alternative ways of accessing your service while repairs are being carried out- for example they may offer call divert or you may be able to download an app that will enable you to access services via your mobile device.

Am I entitled to redress?

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

In more extreme cases, 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 may be entitled to an additional refund or account credit.

In cases where you have been without the service for some time, you may also have the right to leave the contract without penalty- there may 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 receiving are significantly below the original estimate your provider gave you, you may have protections under the voluntary Code of Practice that covers most internet service providers.

How do I complain?

If your provider fails to repair a fault by when they say they will or you are unhappy with how long it is taking, you should follow their formal complaints procedure. Details should be available through their website or customer services.

If your problem is still unresolved after eight weeks you can submit your complaint to an independent Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme.

If your problem cannot be resolved, 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 Ombudsman Services: Communications.

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