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Ofcom Name the Worst UK Mobile, Phone and Broadband ISPs – Q3 2015

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015 (10:25 am) - Score 2,826
complaint UK consumer broadband isp and phone gripes

The telecoms regulator has today published their latest Q3 2015 complaints report, which reveals the volume of gripes received for all of the United Kingdom’s largest broadband, phone, mobile and TV providers. As usual EE takes a beating, while Sky Broadband and Virgin Media win praise.

Ofcom’s report focuses on the market’s biggest providers (i.e. those that hold an overall market share of at least 1.5%) and on average they receive nearly 300 telecoms complaints a day from consumers. Related gripes are likely to be made where a consumer has been unable to resolve an issue with their provider and sadly we don’t get any visibility of the complaints made to the ISPs themselves.

Providers can of course vary in size and so the regulator publishes complaints as a proportion of residential subscribers, which makes it easier to compare. Interestingly Ofcom has tweaked how it performs this calculation and now reports complaints per 100,000 customers, while prior updates reported per 1,000 subscribers. The reason for this change is not clear, although it does produce an easier to understand figure.

The Results

As usual we’ll start with the latest complaints for the biggest fixed line broadband ISPs, which once again finds that EE received the most gripes (45 complaints per 100,000 customers); albeit largely unchanged from the previous quarter. EE’s complaints were dominated by problems related to faults, service and provision (40%); billing, pricing and charges (20%); and complaints handling (19%).

Claudio Pollack, Director of Ofcom’s Consumer Group, said:

We expect providers to make customer service and complaints handling top priorities, so it’s disappointing to see a rise in the number of complaints. Consumers have a right to expect good service and will rightfully complain when that standard isn’t met. Ofcom is continuing work to make switching easier and our complaints data allows consumers to make meaningful comparisons that can be useful when looking for a new provider.”

Elsewhere TalkTalk, PlusNet and BT all saw a sudden spike in complaints, mostly related to a rise in the number of gripes linked to service faults and provision, with a range of 33 – 37 complaints per 100,000 customers.

Thankfully Sky Broadband and Virgin Media continued with their persistent trend of delivering the lowest level of consumer complaints of all the major broadband providers, which is also well below the industry average of 22 complaints per 100,000 customers.

fixed_line_broadband_complaints_q3_2015

The story for fixed line phone providers follows a roughly similar trend to the fixed broadband results above, albeit with some key differences. For example, EE had been attracting the most complaints for the past few quarters, but in Q3 2015 we suddenly see PlusNet shoot to 33 complaints per 100,000 customers (one below EE’s score of 34).

The main complaint drivers for EE’s landline customers were concerns about faults, service and provision (27%); problems changing provider (26%); and complaints handling (19%). By comparison PlusNet’s complaints surge has been driven by issues around faults, service and provision (30%); billing, pricing and charges (21%); and changing provider and complaints handling (both 19%).

Once again we see Virgin Media and Sky Broadband enjoying their position as the providers that attract the markets least complaints, at least in terms of the big players.

fixed_line_phone_complaints_q3_2015

Meanwhile, on the mobile network operator front, we see that Vodafone has attracted a sharp rise and received 20 complaints per 100,000 customers. Most of the gripes against them relate to billing, pricing and charges (37%); complaints handling (28%); and concerns around faults, service and provision (17%).

The good news is that Three UK, O2 and Tesco Mobile have continued along a fairly steady path by attracting the fewest complaints, with both Talk Mobile and Virgin Mobile also seeing fewer gripes against their service and managing to duck below the industry average.

mobile_complaints_q3_2015

Finally we come to Pay TV services and it’s disappointing to report that BT’s previous downward trend (fewer complaints) has suddenly been reversed, with complaint volumes increasing significantly to 25 per 100,000 customers (up from 11 per 100,000 in Q2 2015).

The main reasons for BT’s rising complaints were linked to fault, service and provision issues (31%); complaints handling (25%); and issues relating to billing, pricing and charges (22%). By comparison everybody else held fairly flat, with both Virgin Media and Sky deserving praise for being below the industry average.. again.

pay_tv_complaints_q3_2015

Overall it was the fixed line broadband market that attracted the most complaints, followed by fixed line phone services. All of the other sectors (mobile, pay TV etc.) received considerably fewer complaints on a proportional basis. However it’s too early to say whether the Q3 2015 spike is just a singular event or one that is indicative of a more persistent problem.

Ofcom’s Complaints Report Q3 2015
http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-data-research/../complaints/Q3-2015/

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Mark Jackson
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
7 Responses
  1. Avatar GNewton

    “Elsewhere TalkTalk, PlusNet and BT all saw a sudden spike in complaints”
    “BT’s rising complaints”

    No surprise here, BT has serious issues. This is reflected in all major review sites, such as Trustpilot (https://uk.trustpilot.com/review/bt.com), ISPReview (http://www.ispreview.co.uk/review/products/7.html), or BT’s own business forum (https://business.forums.bt.com/t5/Feedback-general-chat/bd-p/Intros)

    • Avatar Ignition

      *Yawn*

      Am sure I’ve seen these links elsewhere. Specifically a story on separation of Openreach.

      Clearly Retail’s failings necessitate separation of Openreach, after which time Retail will improve immeasurably and Openreach will deploy FTTP across the UK before the end of the decade.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Double yawn at more Ctrl-C , Ctrl-V trolling

  2. Avatar dragoneast

    I have to say I’d treat my own experience and that of people I know as a much better guide than these stats with a difference in extremis between 15-30 customers out of 10,000. It keeps a few people in jobs, I suppose.

    Though most of the time I’m minded to complain, it’s more a problem with my state of mind than the service provider. And there’s a simple home-made remedy for that! (In plentiful supply this time of year, fortunately). So I’ll just wish everyone a Happy Christmas, first.

    • Avatar Ethel Prunehat

      Your post could be summarised as “I am ignorant of statistics and choose to salve my ignorance with alcohol” 😛

    • Avatar dragoneast

      Um, no. There’s a reason for a complaint, and the stats don’t tell you what it is. But patience, and thinking things through first, often helps.

  3. Avatar Captain.Cretin

    o2 complaints suck, I get as little as 2KBps d/l on my mobile around Malvern, despite full H+ signal, yet 130KB u/l. In fact, in the Malvern area I have NEVER had better than 44KB d/l or WORSE than 109KB u/l; drive over to Worcester and suddenly I am getting 119KB d/l and 38KB u/l.

    Despite this, O2 INSIST there is nothing wrong with the Malvern transmitters.

    (This has been going on for a couple of years – at least!)

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