1 Complain to your provider
If you're unhappy with any part of your service, you should complain directly to your service provider and give them a chance to put the matter right.
If you make your complaint over the phone, keep a record of who you speak to, on what date and be sure to make a note of what is said.
You should give your provider a reasonable time to try and put things right - say 14 days. If you're still not satisfied then you can escalate your complaint.
The Consumer Rights Act says that consumers who enter into a contract for goods and services can expect these to be supplied with reasonable care and skill.
If you entered into your contract with your provider before 1 October 2015, you have the same rights under the Supply of Goods and Services Act.
If the service you have received is not reasonable, you can argue there has been a breach of contract.
Check your contract
If you’ve committed yourself to a provider - such as Sky, Virgin Media or BT - you should get the service that you have contracted for.
If you experience interruptions to your viewing to the extent that you're unable to view any content, you may be entitled to terminate the contract with no financial penalty.
You should check your contract first as there is normally a clause that will make provision for the loss of service.
Even if the contract says that they will not be responsible for short losses of service, if the loss of all the channels is constant then you should be in a strong position to terminate your contract.
2 Escalate your complaint
If you’re not happy with the time it's taken your provider to respond to your initial complaint, or how they've dealt with it, then you need to escalate the matter internally.
Try to avoid phone calls and use emails and letters via recorded delivery instead.
Mark your correspondence 'formal complaint' and ask for an acknowledgement of when you will receive a satisfactory response.
Remember to keep a record of all correspondence, no matter how small.
Your subscription TV provider is contractually bound to deliver a service that you agreed to pay for, so it must take your request seriously.
Your provider might try to say it’s the fault of a third party and beyond their control, and this could limit their ability to resolve the problem quickly.
But it's still their responsibility to deliver the service to you and they should be able to give you a realistic timeframe and course of action to get the problem resolved for you.
Make your complaint count
- Keep a record of all correspondence, no matter how small.
- Your provider may say the problem is out of their hands, but it's their responsibility to deliver the service to you.
- If you reach a point where trying to get your problem resolved proves unsuccessful, ask for a deadlock letter.
- Always use an Alternative Dispute Resolution service before resorting to court.
3 Get a deadlock letter
If you reach a point where your attempts to get a problem resolved has not been successful, ask your provider to give you details of the complaints procedure that leads to a deadlock letter.
This is where the provider has exhausted all possible methods at their disposal to resolve the issue with you.
By asking for a deadlock letter, you're asking for evidence that may be used by you at a later date if the dispute continues and you have to go to arbitration or court.
4 Use Alternative Dispute Resolution
All communication providers, including Sky and Virgin Media, need to subscribe to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme that offers access to impartial and free arbitration.
This means they must be a member of either Ombudsman Services: Communications or CISAS (Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme).
ADR is there if you can’t get a problem resolved through the provider’s normal complaints procedure and doesn’t act as a replacement for it.
5 Small claims court
You can use the small claims court for most breach of contract claims, although it should be treated as a last resort.
The main restriction is on the amount you can claim for. In England and Wales, you can claim to £10,000 in the small claims court. In Scotland it's £5,000 and in Northern Ireland it's £3,000.
Read our guide on the small claims court process, if you feel you need to take this course of action.
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