Yesterday TelOne announced that one of its fibre lines was damaged by an excavator that sunk into the ground causing an internet outage in some suburbs. The situation was complicated by a water line the digger also hit which meant that there were two problems to contend with to restore service. While browsing on the internet I came across a program that exists in the UK that, if applied to Zimbabwe, would result in TelOne paying close to US$11.00 a day to its customers for the downtime.
The program in question (called Automatic Compensation Scheme) is an initiative by The Office of Communications or Ofcom which is the UK’s version of our own Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ). It was instituted in 2019 and is there to ensure the quality of service for the telecommunications sector.
“Ofcom launched the telecoms industry’s first-ever automatic compensation scheme (the scheme) for broadband and landline customers in April 2019. Under the scheme, customers receive compensation from their provider, without having to ask for it, for delayed repairs or provisions, and missed appointments”Ofcom
What are the perks?
I won’t lie, I was positively giddy when I came across this and the excitement went through the roof when I saw the cases customers would get compensation for.
|Problem||A landline or broadband customer would be entitled to compensation if…||Amount of compensation|
|Delayed repair following the loss of service||Their service has stopped working and it is not fully fixed after two full working days.||£8.40 (US$10.96) for each calendar day that the service is not repaired|
|Missed appointments (for a reported fault)||An engineer does not turn up for a scheduled appointment, or it is cancelled with less than 24 hours’ notice.||£26.24 (US$34.24) per missed appointment|
|Delays with the start of a new service||Their provider promises to start a new service on a particular date but fails to do so.||£5.25 (US$6.85) for each calendar day of delay, including the missed start date.|
Pretty sure you can now understand my excitement. Imagine seeing that service disruption or internet outage message and knowing that your ISP is going to pay you for the downtime if it is not resolved in 48 hours. Moreover, you don’t have to do anything because this is all automatic.
“If your service doesn’t start on the agreed date, or if your engineer appointment is missed, your provider will pay compensation automatically – meaning you don’t need to take any action to receive the compensation.”
“If your broadband or landline service stops working, you will simply have to report the fault to your provider. If the service is not fixed after two full working days , you would not need to ask for compensation or contact your provider again, as your provider has systems in place that mean you will start receiving compensation automatically if the repair takes too long.”Ofcom
The compensation should be paid no later than 30 days for the categories stated above. You can receive this money as a credit to your account with the service provider or a customer can negotiate otherwise. According to a report by The Guardian from 2020, customers received more than £20 million in compensation through the scheme…
Checks and balances
This sounds great and all but there are things in the Automatic Compensation Scheme that protect the ISPs/service providers. For example, if the internet outage was down to equipment in your house, you will not get any compensation. Additionally, you will not get anything if you breach your contract with your provider or if you stop maintenance or repair from being done, this can be in changing an appointment with a technician when there was a previously agreed upon time.
Moreover, this program is voluntary, so a service provider can opt to be part of it or decline. However, the Automatic Compensation Scheme has a number of the major service providers on board in the UK (including BT, Sky and Virgin) and is something that they can use as a measure of quality assurance for existing or prospective customers.
Furthermore, they can use this as a marketing tool, similar to how banks in Zimbabwe say that they are part of the Deposit Protection Scheme after every advert.
Zimbabwe needs this badly! Internet outages can get out of hand!
Service delivery in Zimbabwe is iffy and customer service can be a headache. I have sometimes been frustrated when calling my provider when I have a problem with my connection. If the Automatic Compensation Scheme was instituted by POTRAZ in Zimbabwe, service providers would be incentivized to ensure that they are on top of their services, even to the point that they would run preventative measures to avoid having to pay compensation to customers.
For Zimbabwe specifically, this should also apply to mobile network operators (MNOs) because they have the most clients. In saying that, it won’t be easy to make this sort of system work for MNOs however, ways of making it apply could be found with a public brainstorming session.
We ranted and raved about the Automatic Compensation Scheme on an episode of our podcast. We also went over what unique scenarios it could help in Zimbabwe over and above what has been written here. You can check that episode out with the player below or by clicking the link here.
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