Openreach, the BT-owned network provider which supplies most UK internet and phone companies, has pledged to improve service levels and make it easier for end-users to follow the progress of their faults and installations.
The BT subsidiary is ring-fenced from the rest of the firm’s operations, including its BT Retail division which competes with Sky, TalkTalk and other phone and broadband providers.
Access to its network and services is guaranteed by regulator Ofcom but a number of BT’s rivals are unhappy with the service their customers receive from Openreach and its engineers.
Earlier this year Sky claimed that hundreds of engineer appointments are missed each month and that thousands of customers see appointment times changed or new installations missed and delayed.
Complaints from rival ISPs have increased in the past few months as some seek to use BT’s impending purchase of mobile firm EE either to secure more regulated access to its products or force Openreach to be split from the rest of the BT group.
Separately there are increasingly high profile complaints, including on BBC One’s consumer affairs programme Watchdog, about delays in connecting new developments to the network.
Openreach insists that it’s already exceeding Ofcom’s performance targets and has hired thousands of additional engineers to reduce customer waiting times.
Today CEO Joe Garner said he hoped to exceed Ofcom’s minimum standards for delivering new connections on-time by 6% and promised that customers would receive text updates including the progress of their job and the name and contact details for their engineer.
He also suggested that, subject to Ofcom approval, customers could in future be allowed contact Openreach directly about their issues ending the need for them to rely on their ISP relaying messages to the engineers.
Responding to today’s announcement, a spokesperson for rival TalkTalk said: “It’s entirely proper that Openreach is innovating and investing, but it’s far likelier to go further, faster as an independent player in a competitive market than as hostage to a large corporate more interested in profit than progress.”