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Which? Identifies the Most Moaned About UK Broadband ISPs

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018 (8:23 am) - Score 2,709

A new survey of 7,026 broadband customers, which was conducted by consumer magazine Which? in July 2018, has examined 12 of the biggest UK home broadband ISPs and found that customers of Virgin Media were the most likely to experience problems with their service. Meanwhile subscribers to Zen Internet had the least moans.

The most common gripes across all of the providers stemmed from price increases, slow broadband speeds, connection dropouts and router problems. For example, some 45% of Virgin Media users complained about price increases, which was followed by router problems (21%) and connection drop outs (16%).

NOTE: The figures represent the proportion of each provider’s customers that told Which? they’d experienced that issue.

The cable operator has over the past 12 months hit subscribers with a couple of price increases for their broadband, phone and TV services, although this trend is not uncommon among all of the biggest ISPs. Similarly Virgin has also had to contend with some widely reported bugs in their top Hub 3.0 (SuperHub v3) router, which includes the now infamous latency flaw (here).

Overall Which?’s survey noted that the most complained about ISPs were Virgin Media, BT, Sky Broadband, TalkTalk and the Post Office (in that order). Meanwhile the smaller providers did fair better, although it’s noted that even the best rated Zen Internet still had problems that affected a third of their customers (i.e. slow speeds 11%, frequent drop outs 10%, router problems 10% and general connection drop outs 4%).

which uk broadband isp complaints 2018

In fairness, over the course of a year you’d expect to see the occasional service disruption no matter who supplies your broadband, which is somewhat par for the course when dealing with complicated networks and computer systems. Just as your Computer or Smartphone may occasionally run into the odd problem, so do telecoms networks.

As usual we always recommend taking the results of such studies with a pinch of salt, not least because we don’t know how much feedback each ISP received. Meanwhile Ofcom’s own complaints statistics suggest that Sky Broadband, Virgin Media and EE may actually receive proportionally fewer complaints than some of their largest rivals (here).

Similarly not all problems with speed or routers are the fault of your ISP. For example, speeds can be affected by slow WiFi, local network congestion or poor wiring within your home and routers can easily be screwed up by poor end-user configuration. Simply blaming the ISP for everything that goes wrong isn’t always fair or accurate.

In the end Which? noted that 81% of respondents had been with their ISP for more than 2 years and were likely to be out of their minimum contract term, which meant they could be paying more than others for the same service. Typically the magazine suggested switching ISPs to save money, although the above survey indicates that many of the cheapest and largest providers also attract proportionally more gripes (out of the frying pan..).

UPDATE 12:11pm

UK ISP Zen Internet has commented on the survey.

Richard Tang, Founder & Chairman of Zen, told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Unfortunately, the UK broadband market is dominated by big players who often put profitability ahead of customer service.

A practice that is, in my view, particularly troublesome is mid-contract price hikes. When prices are increased mid-contract, customers will be given the opportunity to terminate early, but the truth is that the suppliers who indulge in these mid-contract price hikes know full well that the majority of customers will not switch for the sake of 50p or £1 more per month.

Several of these mid-contract price hikes have been introduced on the run up to Christmas – a time when people are probably least likely to want to switch broadband provider! Those big players who routinely carry out mid-contract price increases, are making money by taking advantage of customer inertia; surely this cannot be the right way to run a business!

At Zen, we always strive to put our customers’ happiness first, and money second. It’s a great formula for long-term success, demonstrated by our consistent growth and being awarded ‘Which? Recommended Provider for Broadband’ again. However, we are not complacent and are always looking for ways in which to serve our customers better.”

UPDATE 3:37pm

Cable operator Virgin Media has reacted with surprise to the survey.

A Virgin Media Spokesperson said:

“We were surprised by Which?’s research in light of the fact that Virgin Media had the highest customer satisfaction levels according to Ofcom’s latest broadband survey, the gold standard in our industry. In addition, in Which?’s most recent broadband customer satisfaction survey, published just last month using the same set of data, we had the highest overall score of the major UK providers.

Over the past year we’ve invested around £1billion in our network and upgraded many of our customers to faster broadband while introducing a new top speed of 362Mbps – the fastest widely-available speed in the market. As part of the new ASA broadband advertising rules, Virgin Media was the only major provider to have its advertised speeds increased, whereas all our competitors had theirs lowered significantly.

We’re committed to continuing to improve and provide our customers with a first class service and we have more exciting plans to improve speed, reliability and products.”

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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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5 Responses
  1. Avatar Simon says:

    People always complain about price increases – and if the service is bad for them fair enough (and they should just leave) – but it’s done to pay for more BW costs and speed increases – something no one complains about (again unless the service is bad for them)

    I’ve seen 7 price increases and just accepted the latest one – as the service works top notch for me. and I was for many years a customer who couldn’t get decent service so went back to BT.

    Never used Zen so no idea on them.

    1. Avatar EndlessWaves says:

      No it’s not, the majority of price increases for the big ISPs are just part of their current pricing structure of heavy up front discounts and much higher costs in the long run.

      If you look at smaller ISPs – who should feel bandwidth pressure more urgently – then many of their prices have stayed the same or even gone down in the last couple of years.

    2. Avatar Ian Mills says:

      Wholesale costs are reducing not increasing, aside from the capital needed to fund network development. Most price rises are angled at covering off the loss in revenue from calls and expanding profitability. It’s also effectively a cartel with all providers watching each other and raising prices around the same time. I work in the industry and its a shocking tactic that Ofcom are well overdue tackling.

  2. Avatar Wujek Pawel says:

    “At Zen, we always strive to put our customers’ happiness first, and money second. ”
    That is why Zen is the most expensive?

  3. Avatar a says:

    This drives me absolutely crazy.

    Why are Telecoms allowed to void their contracts with customers?

    Why are Broadband providers allowed to alter the terms of the agreement, its not like the customer can change the contract/decrease what they pay. Yet the ISP can hike up the prices and break the contract?

    Contracts are a joke. The consumer is royally screwed, where as if there’s a poor service the ISP refuses to “allow” the customer to leave (unless they pay them) yet the ISP can alter the price of the service and break the contract when it suits them?

    Either the contract stays the same or theres no contract at all.

    The government allows flexibility but the practices of the ISPs like virgin are shocking and should be fined for malpractice. They hold customers ransom, with poor service and threaten them with fees if they try to leave. Where are consumer protections?

    Poor joke.

    If ISPs can break contracts then consumers should be able to too.

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