‘A neighbour’s faulty kettle broke my broadband’
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.”