Citizens Advice calls for advocate for telecoms customers

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Citizens Advice has called for a Government-appointed advocate for telecoms customers after finding that the majority faced service issues in the past year.

Six out of 10 broadband consumers experienced slow service or had their connection stop working entirely in the last year, a survey for the advisory charity found.

Almost a quarter (24%) said service disruptions affected their ability to work or study and 21% said they were always or regularly unable to pay bills or bank online because of problems with their broadband connection.

More than a quarter (26%) of those who switched broadband provider experienced delays.

A Citizens Advice report last year found that consumers experience 27.8 million problems each year with their phone, TV or internet service.

Telecoms scored the worst of any of the sectors the charity investigated, causing £4.2 billion in total consumer detriment.

It is calling on the Government to establish a telecoms consumer advocate, similar to the role Citizens Advice takes for energy and post, in the upcoming Consumer Green Paper to ensure that consumers are represented in decision-making alongside government and providers.

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: “People now rely on their broadband and mobile connection for the day to day running of their lives.

“Yet the majority of people continue to face significant disruptions that can waste their time and stop them from being able to pay their bills, bank online, study, work or connect with family and friends.

“The Government’s Consumer Green Paper is an opportunity to strengthen the voices of telecoms consumers by establishing a consumer advocate in broadband and mobile markets to reflect how essential these services are to people.”

An Ofcom spokesman said: “Telecoms providers haven’t always kept pace with their customers’ needs so we’re protecting consumers by ensuring faster repairs and installations, and automatic compensation when things go wrong.

“We’re also shining a light on how different providers perform, and looking at ways to help people shop around with confidence.”

A spokesman for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “Broadband is no longer a ‘nice to have’, but a modern necessity, and we all know how frustrating it is when it doesn’t work. That’s why we’ve introduced a raft of measures to help Ofcom protect consumers including receiving compensation when their service falls short.”

– ComRes surveyed 4,127 British adults online between January 12-16.

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