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Ofcom Shame TalkTalk and Tesco for Broadband and Mobile Quality

Tuesday, April 30th, 2019 (9:00 am) - Score 3,833

Ofcom has today published their 2019 survey of UK service quality, call waiting times, complaints and install times among the largest broadband ISPs and mobile operators. Overall TalkTalk attracted the lowest satisfaction for home broadband (79%) and Tesco Mobile did the same for mobile (90%).

As usual the annual report is based on data that the telecoms regulator has gathered (during 2018) via a combination of consumer research (survey of people and social media posts etc.), submitted complaints and some new statistics that have been obtained directly from broadband, landline phone and mobile providers.

Overall 83% of fixed line home broadband consumers say they are satisfied with their service (up from 80% last year), which compares with 93% for mobile (up from 91%) and 86% for landline phone (down from 87%). Subscribers to EE reported the highest levels of satisfaction with broadband (87%), while TalkTalk scored the lowest (79%).

In terms of mobile satisfaction, while Tesco Mobile did get the lowest score (90%) it still has to be said that this is generally pretty good and other mobile operators simply did even better on this specific ranking. Otherwise we’ve gone one step further than Ofcom’s report and kept a log of how customer satisfaction has changed over time (see below).

As usual the big caveat below is that Ofcom are only looking at the largest providers and don’t tend to factor in smaller players, which is a pity since many of the smallest players tend to rate higher than the big boys for a lot of key criteria.

Consumer Broadband Satisfaction (Change Over Time)

BT EE Plusnet Sky Broadband TalkTalk Virgin Media
2019 80% 87% 86% 83% 79% 85%
2018 79% 79% 86% 83% 72% 83%
2017 84% no data no data 88% 83% 91%

Consumer Mobile Satisfaction (Change Over Time)

EE giffgaff O2 Tesco Three UK Virgin Media Vodafone
2019 93% 96% 92% 90% 92% 91% 93%
2018 93% 98% 92% 97% 89% 86% 88%
2017 92% no data 93% 96% 89% 94% 89%

The full results can be found below and you can skip past this if you’d rather read about the service provision or repair performance of the major fixed line broadband ISPs. Among other things this reveals that Plusnet still has by far the longest call waiting times (6:47 mins!) of all broadband providers (i.e. when contacting support), while Tesco mobile (1:04 mins) did the same for mobile operators but by a much smaller margin.

Home Broadband


Landline (Phone)




New Service Provision and Repairs (Fixed Lines)

Ofcom’s study also examined how long it takes providers to deliver a new broadband or landline phone service to customers, as well as how long they may take to repair. Overall, 93% of all landline and broadband orders were delivered by the date agreed with the customer in 2018.

On average, it took 15 days for a landline or broadband order (whether it be a new service, home move or change to service) to be delivered in 2018. This was a slight increase on the 13-day average in 2017. Ofcom found that it also took a day longer to deliver a new service in a rural area than in an urban area.

Similarly “full fibre” (FTTP) services on average took four days longer to be delivered than other broadband services, which isn’t a surprise since they’re often more complex and costly to setup on the first install.

NOTE: In 2018, 5% of orders (400,000) took more than 4 weeks to be delivered and less than 1% of new installations took more than 8 weeks!

In terms of missed appointments on Openreach’s network, there were some 1.9% of missed appoints for new service installations (changed from last year) and 1.8% for repairs to an existing service (unchanged from last year). By comparison Virgin Media missed 0.1% of all engineer appointments for installations (0.4% in 2017) and for repairs they scored 0.4% (0.3% in 2017).

At this point it’s worth nothing that Ofcom has just introduced a new system for automatic compensation (here). As a result their 2020 Comparing Service Quality report will therefore include details of automatic compensation, additional data on faults and their repair times and more detailed information on installations and missed appointments.

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

“Shabby service can be more than just frustrating; it can have a big impact on people and small businesses who rely on being connected.

When you’re shopping around for a phone or broadband service, quality can be just as important as price. This information can help buyers make the right decision.”

One last area that we should examine is complaints. Overall 13% of broadband customers had a reason to complain in 2018, down from 15% in 2017. The most common reason for customers to complain about their fixed broadband were service issues (84%) such as slow broadband speeds and intermittent or total loss of service, followed by billing, pricing or payment issues (12%).

TalkTalk and Virgin Media customers were more likely than average to have had a reason to complain about their broadband service in 2018 (17% and 15% respectively), while Sky Broadband customers were less likely (10%). The proportion of Sky customers with a reason to complain has decreased since 2017 (from 14%).

Stephen van Rooyen, Sky’s CEO for UK & Ireland, said:

“We are pleased to have consistently been the best performing major pay TV, broadband and landline provider for three years in a row, according to Ofcom complaints data. It’s testament to the commitment of our brilliant customer service teams that Sky Mobile has also performed to our high standards in its first ever rating.”

We’ve included a summary of the latest Q4 2018 consumer complaints volumes below (i.e. total volume of complaints per 100,000 subscribers); this also covers Pay TV providers.

Fixed Line Home Broadband Complaints

Overall complaints from Plusnet’s broadband customers “more than doubled” in the last quarter of 2018 and they thus attracted the highest proportion of gripes. In that period, the company experienced issues with a new billing system it launched. Meanwhile Sky Broadband attracted the fewest complaints.


Fixed Line Phone Complaints

The situation for landline phone services echoes the broadband results, where once again Plusnet attracted the most complaints and Sky the fewest.


Mobile Complaints

In terms of mobile, BT, Vodafone and Virgin Mobile generated the highest volume of complaints (the main complaint drivers were complaints handling and issues relating to billing pricing and charges.), while Sky and Tesco Mobile generated the lowest volume.


Pay TV Complaints

BT generated the highest volume of complaints about pay-TV services (main complaint drivers were issues relating to billing, pricing and charges, followed by complaints handling and faults, service and provision issues), while Sky generated the lowest volume.


Ofcom’s Service Quality Report 2019

Ofcom’s Consumer Complaints Report Q4 2018

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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
2 Responses
  1. Avatar Stephen Wakeman says:

    Interesting how they’ve highlighted some outlying figures and not others.

    PlusNet for example. Second highest overall satisfaction but highest Ofcom complaints per 100k customers. Their average wait time is more than double the next longest wait time and 6 times the average of the sample yet neither of these figures are highlighted.

    What they playing at?

    Shame to see Tesco mobile come bottom of the sample group. As stated, still good considering its 90% but they’ve gone from being on or near the top and that’s a long fall. I wonder if it’s a result of them cost cutting like they’re in the process of savagely doing with their retail and grocery operations?

    1. Avatar Mike says:

      One thing to be aware of with large providers is they tend to attract more…less abled…customers than others, hence getting more flak than they necessarily deserve.

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