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UPD Ofcom Q1 2017 UK Consumer Complaints Report Slaps BT and TalkTalk

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017 (11:11 am) - Score 1,735
complaint UK consumer broadband isp and phone gripes

Ofcom’s latest Q1 2017 study of UK consumer complaints about fixed line Broadband, Phone, Pay TV and Mobile services has praised Sky (Sky Broadband) for receiving the fewest gripes. Meanwhile BT, TalkTalk and Vodafone are highlighted for attracting the most complaints.

The regulator has also published a new “interactive Tableau tool” alongside this report (here). The purpose of this tool is simply to make it easier for stakeholders to access and interpret Ofcom’s data. Otherwise the regulator also noted that consumer satisfaction with communications services is broadly strong and sits at around 90%.

Nevertheless Ofcom continues to receive “nearly300 complaints per day (calls), although this report only reflects the biggest providers (i.e. those with a 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 or ombudsman).

The results 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. We note that the regulator does not itself deal with individual complaints but they do monitor them and can take action if enough people highlight a specific problem.

Overall the total volume of complaints across all service sectors has remained fairly stable since Q4 2016.

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

“Our report shows that, for a number of providers, there is still much room for improvement.

Phone and broadband companies must take all possible steps to improve their complaints handling and customer service, and we expect this to be their number one priority.”

We should point out that consumers who are unable to resolve a complaint with their communications 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 at no cost to yourself. Further details here.

Fixed Line Home Broadband Complaints

Broadly speaking there wasn’t much change this quarter, although BT continued to receive the most complaints due to a combination of service faults, provision problems and some issues with complaints handling and billing. Meanwhile Plusnet showed the biggest improvement, although they continue to receive above the industry average level of complaints.

As usual Virgin Media and Sky Broadband are both still managing to attract the fewest complaints.


Fixed Line Phone Complaints

On the surface TalkTalk appears to attract the most complaints, although they’re only a step higher than Plusnet, the Post Office and BT. Interestingly TalkTalk, Plusnet and BT are all said to “share the same main complaint drivers. They received the most complaints relating to faults, service and provision, followed by issues about billing, pricing and charges, and complaint handling.”

However it’s also noted that some different methodologies were used to compile the subscriber figures, which Ofcom said meant that BT’s performance in Q1 2017 was now comparable to TalkTalk’s, Plusnet’s and Post Office. Sadly we’re not given much detail about this.

Otherwise it’s no surprise to find that Virgin Media and Sky Broadband (Sky Talk) are again praised for attracting the fewest complaints.


Mobile Complaints

Good news for Vodafone this quarter as they’ve shown a clean reduction in their complaint volume, although sadly they remain the most complained about Mobile Network Operator due to issues with billing, pricing and
charges, followed by complaints handling and faults, service and provision problems. Otherwise everybody else seems to hand around the industry average line, either a bit above or below it.


Pay TV Complaints

BT’s Pay TV service continues to attract the highest level of complaints and they remain well above everybody else in the naughty table, which is disappointing when you consider that TalkTalk has made quite a bit improvement over the past year. Sadly only Sky manages to remain below the industry average.


Ofcom’s Complaints Report Q1 2017

UPDATE 1:35pm

Sky has added a comment.

A Sky Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Throughout 2016, Sky offered an unparalleled level of service to our customers in Broadband, Talk and TV, and once again we have started the year maintaining those high standards.

At Sky we are always striving to do even better, constantly looking for ways to make things easier for our customers, and we are focused on delivering a fantastic experience for them throughout 2017 and beyond.”

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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.
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9 Responses
  1. Avatar MikeW

    As ever, it is one tiny detail that intrigues me…

    Ofcom doesn’t deal with individual complaints. But it does count what it receives (hopefully redirecting them), and then uses them to publish these reports.

    But for the life of me, I don’t understand why they do this, nor what statistical relevance it has.

    An ISP that has plenty to be complained about, but who has customers who understand the complaint procedure properly, will appear to Ofcom to have no complaints.

    Meanwhile an ISP with less to complain about, but without a well-publicised complaint procedure, will trigger more (badly directed) complaints to Ofcom.

    How can Ofcom then make a rating about how strong the telecomm’s customer satisfaction is, if it is measuring in a place that customers aren’t supposed to show up?

    If 90% of complaints are going to the right places (not Ofcom), how do those get measured and reported?

    • Perhaps the amount of providers that have been chastised and fined for breaking industry rules, many of which were only spotted following consumer complaints made directly to Ofcom, may offer a clue; not to mention the regulator’s many regulatory changes that have been influenced by the same feedback. In my experience consumers will often raise complaints to Ofcom, their ISP and other groups (ISPA, ADR, ISPreview etc.) – at the same time – when they get frustrated.

      The thing is a lot of people will instinctively complain to a familiar regulator as an obvious port of call, irrespectively of correct procedures.

    • Avatar ultraspeedy

      If many people are complaining about the same things and same provider then it is no longer a single “individual” complaint and rightly so Ofcom keep a record of it.

    • Avatar MikeW

      I thoroughly agree that Ofcom should pay attention to the complaints, and even watch for commonality.

      I also agree that Ofcom can make good use of this reporting mechanism to trigger investigations.

      I even agree that there’s a class of consumer that knows complaining to Ofcom is an option, and perhaps a worthwhile one.

      But until Ofcom is a proper part of the reporting “chain of command”, then any of these may be considered “happy side-effects”.

    • Avatar ultraspeedy

      If a fair chunk of people are complaining to Ofcom because (rightly or wrongly) they think that is who you should report to and Ofcom keep a record of these complaints i do not see how in any way that can be a bad thing. HOWEVER though you will need to keep reading to the end hehe i do to a degree understand your point and possibly agree with a small part of it.

      To me it does not really matter if Ofcom is a proper part of the reporting “chain of command” they can launch an investigation into any provider at any time.

      If i ever had a truly abysmal ISP i would go through the proper steps, IE complain to the ISP, then complain to their ADR etc. When free of the ISP id also properly let Ofcom know what has occurred also. The fact they would not be able to help me and the fact i would finally be free of the abysmal ISP IMO makes no difference to me, if Ofcom get enough complaints about the same behavior from the same ISP, they could at some point trigger an investigation into the ISPs behavior.

      I would say though i partly (though maybe in a different way) agree with your opening post. Its confusing and Ofcom need to update things a bit.

      Being unable to handle individual complaints is fair enough (they would need a workforce of massive size to do so) but they should be more open about what they will if they are getting multi complaints investigate. They should be more clear about how many complaints and what exactly can trigger an investigation.

      Without that information or them doing anything it is as you say to put in a short as possible term a bit daft to have or even produce this report. <<< That i agree with you on.

      Letting people know whos getting complained about and stating many number above industry acceptable levels but doing nothing about it, is woeful on their part.

  2. Avatar PaulM

    Ouch not good for BT and Talk Talk.

  3. Avatar Symon Winter

    Talk talk is like hotel California. You check out any time you like but you can never leave. You can after two live chats an a phone call totaling over 2 hours.

  4. Avatar christine sunter

    Bt pulled a fast one on me they cut me off when i moved stopped another provider connecting me i paid £720 quarter. My new address sent me a new bill for no service thrn applied a febste for £8.00

  5. Avatar Gary Hardy

    Can you help I started with talk talk on the 21st of August the installation was not completed as we was left with no broadband after two weeks of trying to get put right and talking a number of different call centers all over the world I eventually got them to a second engineer who told us we need a ground engineer as it is not connected properly , its now been month and I still have no internet but talktalk have managed to issue me two bills for something I don’t.

    Kind regards

    Gary hardy

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