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John Lewis and Zen Internet Come Top for UK ISP Broadband Satisfaction

Monday, March 16th, 2015 (8:27 am) - Score 4,255

Consumer magazine Which? has today published the results of their latest Q1 2015 reader survey of broadband ISP satisfaction, which found that customers of John Lewis’s broadband division and Zen Internet were the most satisfied with their service. Meanwhile all of the biggest ISPs could be found languishing at the bottom.

The consumer survey itself was conducted between December 2014 and January 2015 with only 1,757 of the magazine’s readers, so take the results with a pinch of salt because we don’t get to see precisely how much feedback each ISP received. Otherwise respondents were quizzed about various aspects of service, such as speed, support, reliability and value for money etc.

Overall only four ISPs received a satisfaction score of greater than 70%, which saw John Lewis come top (76%) and they were followed by the familiar faces of Zen Internet (75%), Utility Warehouse (73%) and PlusNet (72%). Which? notes that these are all “smaller” providers and indeed all of the big boys could be found languishing in the lower half of the table, with BT at the lowest (45%).

which broadband satisfaction q1 2015 uk

It’s good to see the popular high street brand John Lewis doing well here, especially as they’ve only been in the market for 3 years. But it’s worth noting that John Lewis is supported by PlusNet’s platform and funnily enough PlusNet are actually owned by BT, although they remain a semi-independent business and clearly have a much better handle on issues of customer support and service than their parent.

As for the big ISPs, it’s perhaps no surprise to see BT, TalkTalk and EE languishing lower down, although Ofcom’s similar surveys of consumer complaints (here) and broadband satisfaction (here) tend to give considerably more praise to Sky Broadband and Virgin Media than the Which? survey does.

Otherwise Which? once again took the opportunity to continue their campaign for a “Broadband Speed Guarantee“, which seeks to nudge the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) into tightening the rules to ensure that advertised broadband speeds “more closely match the real experience of most customers“.

Which?’s Demands for a Broadband Speed Guarantee

• Advertising speed claims, like “superfast”, to be quantified by providers.
• Customers to be given written speed estimates at the start of the contract, with an accurate estimate for their individual address.
• People to be allowed to exit contracts without penalty if they don’t get the minimum speed estimated at any point in their contract.

It’s perhaps worth pointing out that everybody appears to struggle with the question of defining “superfast” (here), not just ISPs. Meanwhile pretty much every fixed line ISP will already give subscribers an estimated speed range when they first sign-up (Ofcom’s Voluntary Code of Practice on Broadband Speeds), although requiring an “accurate estimate” isn’t really possible with the current infrastructure and other pitfalls.

Internet connectivity performance can fluctuate for all sorts of reasons, such as poor home wiring, local network congestion, traffic management, crosstalk on FTTC lines or slow wifi etc. Many of those issues are beyond the ISPs ability to control and some would be simply impossible to account for in an estimate.

On the other hand we’d like to see more flexibility for consumers to exit their contracts, albeit during significant and protracted performance loss rather than “if they don’t get the minimum speed estimated at any point“; consumer broadband performance is based off shared capacity, which is why it’s so cheap, and so there will always be some fluctuation.

As ever if subscribers really want a guarantee of speed then there’s always the option of a proper uncontended business leased line style solution with a real Service Level Agreement (SLA), but of course you’ll pay through the nose for that and indeed if you applied the same solution to home broadband then the prices would have to rise significantly.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
4 Responses
  1. Bob2002 says:

    I’m a bit dubious about ISP surveys that end up with John Lewis(not often mentioned on specialist ISP forums) and Zen at the top, they both seem to represent the same personalty types that like to kid themselves that by paying a bit extra they are getting a truly superior service when in fact it is probably only marginally better, in some areas, than cheaper options. Having said that I am toying with Zen as my possible next ISP.

    If Andrews and Arnold had come out near the top I might not be so suspicious of the results as they do seem to offer a level of service that receives consistent praise.

  2. Sledgehammer says:

    None of what I see above would make me want to change from my present ISP.

  3. adslmax says:

    John Lewis is the same company as Plusnet. But phone line rental for plusnet is £15.95 compare to john lewis £13.50.

    So, how come customer service in a long wait for expensive line rental than cheaper john lewis who be able get a quicker answer in customer service phone call?

  4. dragoneast says:

    Yep, as always beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For years I had a subscription to Which?, and eventually gave it up since my experience was always different. I never respond to surveys though. And suspect I’m not the only one.

    I’m with a small ISP. Most of their customers seem to swear blind they’re better, and this site seems convinced too. What in my experience makes the difference? My patience. And the local Openreach engineers who seem to proactively manage the local network, which means we end up with lower but consistent speeds. I’ve been with several ISPs down the years and I’d say they all have next to nothing to do with it. (But of course that wouldn’t satisfy the marketing departments. Or the accountants. Or, of course, sites such as this). Of course they have their network problems from time to time, and you have to wait until they sort it out. I think if Openreach were more consistent with their maintenance standards across the network it’d help, but I don’t know of anything where each team is the same. Some are better, and at different things, than others. It’s the human condition, until we’re all superseded by robots.

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