BT Openreach is handing out refunds totalling £14m

Nicola Scoon


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    What’s the best type of news you can get? The news of an unexpected windfall, of course. Especially when it comes from a business behemoth like Openreach. You see headline figures in the millions and try and guess how much might be hitting your pockets. 

    Sadly, this time, the answer is zero. This refund is heading straight to network providers, so you won’t see a penny. But why?

    BT Openreach refund


    A lingering underpayment

    The announcement was buried away in BT’s latest trading statement, so this might be the first you’re hearing about it.

    The reason for this £14m refund? An underpayment to network providers for a service level guarantee on a product known as Ethernet Backhaul Direct. In a nutshell, providers didn’t receive the right compensation for faults and network outages. The discovery was made recently, but the error dates all the way back to October 2016 – hence the rather large amount. 


    Hasn’t this happened before? 

    This isn’t the first time Openreach has had to refund providers en masse. In 2017, BT was hit with a record £42m fine and ordered to pay £300m in refunds. The reason? Using a loophole to reduce the amount of compensation paid to its customers, including Vodafone and Sky. This meant that they weren’t properly compensated for late connections.

    To make things worse, Openreach later discovered even more instances of delayed installs for high-speed lines. This led to the company ‘looking into’ refunding affected customers. It’s almost as if history is repeating itself. 

    Broadband provider refund


    Who gets a refund exactly? 

    There’s likely to be little to no impact on consumers. And no refund either – sorry. 

    This £14m underpayment is making its way to network providers. As Openreach customers, network providers expect a certain level of compensation for interrupted service. That didn’t happen, so they’re due compensation. 

    The list of providers due to receive a refund hasn’t been published, but Openreach is in touch with them directly. So, unless you run a communications company, don’t expect a phone call. 


    Could you claim a refund for delays or disruption? 

    Between October 2016 and now you might’ve experienced some interruption in service. That can be frustrating. Even more so when you know that the compensation won’t make its way down to you. 

    Luckily, from now on you’ll start to be compensated for services that don’t work.


    “... unless you run a communications company, don’t expect a phone call.”


    In April, automatic compensation for broadband customers went live. This means that if your engineer cancels or an installation or repair is delayed, your provider will compensate you. 

    The amounts aren’t huge, so don’t get too excited. For a delayed install, you’re entitled to £5 per day, rising to £8 per day for a delayed fix. If your engineer cancels on you or doesn’t arrive, you could see £25 credited to your account. So, it’s not quite millions but goes a small way to address the inconvenience.

    Broadband compensation


    What else featured in the trading statement? 

    News of this refund broke in BT Group plc’s latest trading statement, which gives a snapshot of performance and profitability. But what else was mentioned? 

    It wasn’t a period of growth for the group. Both profit and revenue fell by 1% compared to the same period last year. Still, a profit of £642m is nothing to complain about. 


    “All this talk of unreliability is a source of frustration for many businesses.”


    The group’s capital expenditure rose by 11 per cent, thanks to investments in the network. That’s good news for in general, as the rollout of full-fibre broadband is due to accelerate. 

    The trading statement also included praise for EE’s rollout of the UK’s first 5G mobile network in May. It’s now live in six UK cities, including London and Manchester. EE’s competitors, Vodafone and Three, quickly followed suit. In fact, Three seemed to hit a nerve with its controversial marketing campaign for Three 5G

    Choosing best broadband


    How to get a more reliable broadband service 

    All this talk of unreliability hits close to home. It’s a source of frustration for many businesses. In fact, four in five rate reliable broadband as ‘extremely important’. That’s because it is – especially if you depend on a fast, uninterrupted connection to run your business. 

    Connections like fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) or premises (FTTP) are popular. And on the whole, they’re reliable. They work well most of the time, but if something goes wrong your connection can drop. Just like that. 


    “... it could be just the reminder you need to look a little closer at your broadband service.”


    For some businesses, it’s not a huge issue. The downtime gives you a chance to catch up on the filing or office gossip. You might even head to a coffee shop to work instead. For other businesses, this downtime costs money. Big money.

    Ever found yourself in that position? If so, it might be time to consider something more reliable. Leased lines are a great candidate. They often come with technology that switches you to 4G if your connection drops. Don’t need a leased line just yet? BT has brought this feature to fibre customers through 4G Assure. 

    Unreliable service has meant a payout for these providers. While there’s no compensation for you, it could be just the reminder you need to look a little closer at your broadband service.

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