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Ofcom Q4 2016 UK Complaints Report Highlights Problems for BT and Plusnet

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017 (12:33 pm) - Score 2,026

Ofcom’s latest Q4 2016 (Oct-Dec) consumer complaints study has found that BT attracted the most gripes for fixed line broadband services, while Plusnet did the same for fixed line phone, Vodafone had a similar problem for Mobile and once again BT also came bottom for Pay TV.

Overall the total volume of complaints across all services has increased from Q3 2016, with broadband and fixed line services continuing to generate the highest number of consumer gripes. By comparison Mobile and Pay TV services received the fewest complaints compared to other services.

Never the less Ofcom continues to receive “nearly” 300 complaint calls per day, although today’s report only reflects the largest providers in each sector (i.e. those with an overall market share of at least 1.5%) and complaints that have been made directly to Ofcom (i.e. not those handled internally / privately by an ISP).

The results in Ofcom’s report are also reflected as a proportion of residential subscribers (i.e. the total number of quarterly complaints per 100,000 customers), which makes it easier to compare providers in a market where the big ISPs can vary significantly in size.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said:

“Providers must get on and deliver consistently excellent customer service, and we expect this to be their number one priority. When companies get things wrong, we won’t hesitate to investigate and potentially levy fines.”

We should point out that the regulator does not itself deal with individual complaints, although they do keep a log of gripes and can take action against specific ISPs if enough people moan. Customers who are unable to resolve a complaint with their provider can (after 8 weeks) raise a case with one of the two ombudsman providers – Ombudsman Services: Communications or CISAS – via the Alternative Dispute Resolution process, which will investigate the issue for no charge.

Fixed Line Home Broadband Complaints

Most of the listed broadband providers appear to have seen an up-tick in complaints during the final quarter of 2016 and BT continues to top the pack, with the main complaint drivers being related to unspecified faults, service and provision issues. However BT also reported a quarterly fall, as did its sibling Plusnet, in complaint volumes. By comparison TalkTalk saw a sudden surge and we can’t see any particular reason for that.


Elsewhere Virgin Media and Sky Broadband continue to deserve praise for receiving the fewest overall complaints of all the big ISPs, although the complaint levels for both appear to now be heading in the wrong direction.

A Sky Spokesperson said:

“Sky has generated proportionately fewer Ofcom complaints in Broadband, Talk and TV than anyone else during the past year, but we always set ourselves higher standards.

At Sky we are constantly trying to innovate and make things easier for our customers.”

Fixed Line Phone Complaints

Sadly Plusnet attracted the most complaints of all the major fixed line phone providers, although both TalkTalk and the Post Office are now sitting just a hair shy of being at the same level after a surge in gripes. By comparison Plusnet actually saw their complaints reduce slightly, although all three suffered failings with faults, service and provisioning.

At the same time Virgin Media continued to mirror their good performance from the broadband category above, although they’ve now come dangerously close to the dotted line that represents the ‘industry average’. Meanwhile Sky Broadband has managed to continue attracting the fewest complaints of any provider and they’re still more or less level with their past performance. Good work.


Mobile Complaints

Not much appears to have changed on the Mobile front, with everybody more or less holding a similar level to the previous quarter. However Vodafone continues to attract more complaints than any other operator, with most of their gripes being related to issues about billing, pricing and charges.


Pay TV Complaints

Finally, there’s no surprise to find that BT is still attracting the most gripes for Pay TV services, which mostly related to problems with faults, service and provision. Meanwhile Sky Broadband has once again managed to maintain their position as the largest national ISP with the fewest complaints.


Ofcom’s Complaints Report Q4 2016

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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
6 Responses
  1. MikeW says:

    If Ofcom isn’t the right place to make a complaint to, is there any validity to measuring complaints made there? As opposed to measuring at the place(s) that complaints are meant to be directed to?

    Who knows whether Sky is really the least complained-about broadband supplier? Perhaps they are just better at getting complaints sent somewhere other than Ofcom.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      In my experience a lot of the people I’ve come across over the years will often view Ofcom, being the regulator, as their first or second port of call for complaints (often at the same time as writing / calling their ISP). Likewise many of the rulings and fines that Ofcom have dished out against providers for wrongful customer treatment come from complaints that have been made directly to them.

      So yes, there is some validity and it clearly has an impact when enough gripes are shared. The new Digital Economy Bill may also make it easier for Ofcom to extract more details about complaints and other aspects of service provision from ISPs, so hopefully future reports will offer an even better insight.

      I’d very much like to get insight on internal ISP complaint levels and ADR complaint levels per provider but at present we can’t, nobody will release that sort of detail to us.

    2. alan says:

      I guess BT, Talk Talk and their ilk of crap service could always release their personally received customer complaint figures to Ofcom. If in reality BT are better complaint wise, and make Sky and Virgin look poor in comparison… Then again that could have the opposite effect and Ofcom needing a taller chart with higher numbers. Along with a few more tasty new fines for them this year.

      Or maybe its more simple and its all just made up to annoy BT disciples…. Either way it works, a good job by Ofcom in presenting important customer awareness of telecoms big industry players and their good or no so good way they treat customers.

  2. AndyH says:

    I always fail to make sense of the OFCOM complaint’s data. Sky is 4-5x lower than BT for fixed line/broadband complaints, which doesn’t make much sense given that they are both supplied from the same supplier.

  3. Trevor says:

    Sky include their tv base in their customer numbers tv doesnt have many faults so they end up proportionately lower. Basically the above is all bunkum

    1. alan says:

      That is why there is a graph for TV complaints along with broadband and phone complaints, BT come bottom or near bottom for them all. Why you would think BTs figures do not include their TV subs is a mystery.

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