The ability to make a complaint is often essential but how many Internet Service Providers are transparent about the process and do some intentionally attempt to make the necessary contacts and information hard for novice net users to find? ISPreview.co.uk examined seven of the markets primary broadband ISPs to find out.
Ideally an ISPs complaint contacts and information should be easy for all to access, referenced on the front of a providers contact or help page (the first place that most people would think to look) and shown alongside the usual support contacts (email, phone numbers, address etc.).
Similarly Ofcom (communications regulator) requires that any internal ISP complaints which go unresolved for 8 weeks (the Deadlock Letter stage) should become subject to the option of an external Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) complaint handler process, which is an ombudsman service that can tackle the complaint on your behalf (ISP Complaints and Advice).
The regulator expects all ISPs to make this ADR information transparent and even requires them to inform consumers about the process in writing (i.e. assuming your complaint has not already been resolved internally). Unfortunately this doesn’t always happen and a recent Ofcom survey suggested that many consumers, specifically those who are eligible to use an ADR, remain unaware of the service (here).
As a result ISPreview.co.uk has decided to take a closer look at several of the markets most prominent broadband ISPs to see how easy it is for a novice to find the necessary information. In order to assist in this we asked for anecdotal feedback from friends and family, which included three casual Internet users aged 70+. Each was tasked with trying to hunt down any complaints related ISP contacts or information before reporting back. The feedback was used to help shape our view of each provider.
It should be noted that this study is NOT designed to be a direct test of customer support quality for specific products. Indeed our focus here is entirely on the ease of both finding and understanding the information and contacts related to the complaints process (including ADRs) via each providers website.
Our study group found BT’s Help page to be a little cluttered, which made it difficult to locate information about the complaints process. In the end we had to scroll right to the bottom of BT’s website to find their ‘Contact’ link and thankfully a ‘Complaints’ option was then listed (note: there is a ‘Contact’ link on the help page too but it was often overlooked due to appearing lower down than other content).
Clicking through to the contact page, which required us to select ‘Complaints’ a second time on the next page, took us to a contact section that gave a phone number, email and postal address for the “BT Correspondence Centre“. We also noted a ‘Codes of Practice’ link at the bottom of BT’s site that took us to a relevant policy page.
Separately we quickly found an option for BT’s Complaints Code when typing ‘complaints’ into the search box on their website but in order to access the necessary policy information we had to download an Adobe PDF document, which revealed some simple but useful information about the ADR process.
Experienced Internet users will often scroll to the bottom of a website in order to check for contact pages but others may not and customers who fail to do this could find themselves confused by BT’s Help section. Similarly the complaints policy itself required users to download a PDF file, which shouldn’t be necessary and can cause confusion or other problems (there’s no reason why such information couldn’t be placed on a web page).
But overall BT wasn’t too bad and some simple improvements, such as listing the ‘Contact’ page further up and making the complaints policy more obvious alongside the related contact options, would make a world of difference.