‘A neigh­bour’s faulty ket­tle broke my broad­band’

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A frus­trated cus­tomer tells Laura Suter he has reached an im­passe in ef­forts to solve an elec­tri­cal is­sue cut­ting out his in­ter­net

Your neigh­bour’s faulty ket­tle, oven or lamp can stop your in­ter­net work­ing, and there is very lit­tle you can do about it. Repet­i­tive elec­tri­cal im­pulse noise, oth­er­wise known as REIN, is caused when one of your elec­tri­cal de­vices or ap­pli­ances has a fault, and emits an elec­tri­cal fre­quency that in­ter­feres with your broad­band. This can cause the in­ter­net to cut out or be in­ter­mit­tent.

How­ever, the de­vice caus­ing the out­ages, in most cases, works per­fectly well, mak­ing de­tect­ing the source of the in­ter­fer­ence par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult.

Ed Dy­mott, 38, has been hav­ing prob­lems with faulty broad­band af­ter up­grad­ing to Sky’s new Q ser­vice. Af­ter switch­ing to the ser­vice, which prom­ises the “next gen­er­a­tion” in home tele­vi­sion and broad­band, Mr Dy­mott no­ticed his in­ter­net was cut­ting out reg­u­larly, and of­ten at pop­u­lar times, such as the week­ends and evenings.

He first re­ported the prob­lem to Sky in April, and now it be­lieves he is the vic­tim of REIN. How­ever, find­ing the faulty de­vice re­quires a process of elim­i­na­tion.

En­gi­neers have tested his home and ap­pli­ances, and have found no source of in­ter­fer­ence. Af­ter many weeks, they have now iden­ti­fied his neigh­bour’s home as the likely source of the prob­lem.

“BT Open­reach say they have a ‘strong hunch’ that it is the neigh­bour’s prop­erty, but they can’t check that un­til they have gone into the house,” said Mr Dy­mott.

Mr Dy­mott, who lives in a fourbed­room prop­erty in south Croy­don with his girl­friend, said that, af­ter Sky had iden­ti­fied elec­tri­cal in­ter­fer­ences as the likely cause, it put him in touch with Open­reach, which has an en­gi­neer spe­cial­is­ing in these prob­lems.

“There is only one Open­reach spe­cial­ist en­gi­neer in the South East, and he is avail­able so in­fre­quently and he is so busy,” said Mr Dy­mott. “He also has to come to us when the in­ter­net is down. He wants to get into the neigh­bour’s house but has no rights to ac­cess it.

“So I am try­ing to sched­ule a time when the in­ter­net is down, we’re in, this en­gi­neer is avail­able and our neigh­bours are in,” said Mr Dy­mott. “As much as we have a good re­la­tion­ship with the neigh­bours, they work full-time, are typ­i­cally away at week­ends, and have a young fam­ily. And even if we found the de­vice that has the is­sue, noth­ing says that the neigh­bours will re­place the ap­pli­ance.”

Mr Dy­mott added that, while Sky has called him reg­u­larly to get up­dates on the sit­u­a­tion, it has largely left him to deal with the en­gi­neer and prob­lem him­self.

‘I think I’ve prob­a­bly spent an en­tire week wait­ing for Sky and Open­reach en­gi­neers’

The prob­lem high­lights the is­sue of some broad­band providers, who rely on BT Open­reach’s in­fra­struc­ture to power broad­band to in­di­vid­u­als’ homes, but have the con­tract di­rect with the cus­tomer. An­drew Leakey, a part­ner at the na­tion­wide law firm Stephen­sons So­lic­i­tors, said that ul­ti­mately the sit­u­a­tion is Sky’s prob­lem to re­solve.

“The client has a con­tract with Sky, and they are not meet­ing their stan­dards in that con­tract. He has no con­tract with Open­reach, which is the or­gan­i­sa­tion that Sky has a con­tract with,” he said.

Mr Leakey added that Mr Dy­mott likely has a case to take to the small claims court, to get a re­fund of pay­ments made be­cause of the out­ages. “The cus­tomer has got the right to pur­sue them un­der the Con­sumer Rights Act,” he said.

James Da­ley, of Fairer Fi­nance, a con­sumer rights cham­pion, added: “Sky is one of the broad­band providers that signed up to Of­com’s vol­un­tary code of prac­tice, which came into ef­fect in Oc­to­ber 2015, that ba­si­cally says if they are not pro­vid­ing broad­band at speeds they said they would, they have to let you out of the con­tract penalty-free or give you a lower monthly charge.”

Mr Da­ley said that whether the prob­lem is Open­reach’s or not is ir­rel­e­vant to the cus­tomer.

“Ev­ery­where peo­ple are sub­con­tract­ing part of their of­fer­ing, in just about ev­ery in­dus­try. You can­not imag­ine go­ing into H&M, tak­ing back an item that was ripped and them say­ing ‘you have to take this up with a third-party clothes sup­plier’,” Mr Da­ley said.

He ad­vised any­one in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion to record ev­ery­thing in writ­ing, write a for­mal com­plaint, and make it clear that if you are not com­pen­sated you will es­ca­late it to the Fi­nan­cial Om­buds­man Ser­vice.

Mr Dy­mott es­ti­mated that he has so far had about 15 vis­its from en­gi­neers, in ad­di­tion to some times when the en­gi­neers failed to show up.

“I think I’ve prob­a­bly spent an en­tire week wait­ing for Sky and Open­reach en­gi­neers, and have had up to 50 phone calls about the prob­lem, and my in­ter­net still doesn’t work,” he said.

Sky has of­fered Mr Dy­mott either half-price broad­band for a year or three months of the en­tire Sky

pack­age at half price, which he said works out at com­pen­sa­tion of about £70 and is “atro­cious”. He added that Sky had told him it is un­der no obli­ga­tion to com­pen­sate him as it is not its is­sue.

A Sky spokesman said: “We’re very sorry that Mr Dy­mott has been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in­ter­mit­tent prob­lems with his broad­band.

“Our tech­ni­cal ex­perts have worked ex­tremely hard to in­ves­ti­gate and re­solve the is­sue, and fol­low­ing ex­ten­sive test­ing, we have iden­ti­fied the cause as ex­ter­nal elec­tri­cal in­ter­fer­ence, which is out­side of Sky’s con­trol.

“REIN is an is­sue which can af­fect any broad­band cus­tomer on any net­work ir­re­spec­tive of the ISP provider. Mr Dy­mott is free to leave his Sky con­tract at any time with no early ter­mi­na­tion charges and we will con­tinue to work with him to reach a res­o­lu­tion.”

Mr Dy­mott added: “What this ex­pe­ri­ence has told me is to never use some­one like Sky where they have a con­trac­tual re­la­tion­ship with Open­reach. I would go straight to Vir­gin as they have their own net­work.”

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