Ofcom has announced new rules designed to improve Openreach’s performance on repairs and installations.
The draft rules, which are expected to come into force this Summer, set out new minimum performance standards for Openreach, the company that installs and maintains connections to BT’s network on behalf of competing providers.
They are designed to ensure phone and broadband customers get a better service, and have already been notified to the European Commission.
Under the targets, Openreach is expected to repair the vast majority of phone and broadband faults within two working days. Customers who request a new phone line should get an appointment for one within 12 working days.
While the rules are expected to formally come in in the coming months, they will escalate to the intended level by 2016, to give Openreach time to get appropriate systems in place.
Failure to meet these targets will result in Openreach facing sanctions, including fines. The targets will be adjusted to take into account jobs where external factors, such as extreme weather, meant meeting the target was not possible. It is expected that up to three per cent of repairs and one per cent of installations in a typical year might be delayed due to such factors.
Separately, Ofcom will also review the standards of redress, which could include compensation, that landline and broadband providers offer to consumers when they suffer problems. The new targets, which are part of Ofcom’s Fixed Access Market Reviews, stipulate that Openreach should:
– Complete around 80 per cent of repairs to reported faults within two working days.
– Provide an appointment for around 80 per cent of new line installations within 12 working days of the request.
Report publicly on its performance, which will allow Ofcom to monitor and intervene further if required; and make clear the timeframe for jobs which take longer than these targets, to provide reassurance to consumers about how long the work is likely to take.
As another element of the Fixed Access Market Reviews, a wide-ranging set of decisions in the wholesale telecoms markets used by companies to offer telephone and broadband services to UK consumers, Ofcom has also moved to boost superfast broadband competition.
Currently companies that take on anyone wishing to change their superfast broadband provider must pay a £50 fee to Openreach, which is often passed on to the customer. Ofcom intends to cut this to £11, which would allow providers to offer lower retail start-up fees. They also propose reducing the term of the wholesale contract when a superfast customer switches from one year to one month, meaning telecoms providers will be able to offer shorter retail contracts.
Ofcom has, however, made clear it is not planning to set the wholesale pricing levels for Openreach’s fibre service, believing market forces such as availability of standard broadband and competition from Virgin Media’s cable network naturally constrain it.