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Study Finds Poor Broadband Customer Service During COVID-19

Saturday, May 23rd, 2020 (12:01 am) - Score 2,077

A new YouGov survey of 4,344 UK adults, which was commissioned by consumer magazine Which? and conducted during late April 2020, has found that 53% of people had difficulty contacting their broadband ISP in the last month due to the impact of COVID-19, which left some exposed to avoidable price hikes and other problems.

Unfortunately the Coronavirus crisis has had a huge impact on staffing in some call centres, particularly among those ISPs that rely on outsourcing via other countries. In response many providers have since adapted and moved a lot of their support agents into remote working (Work From Home) mode, while others have ramped-up their online support channels to compensate.

Sadly long call waiting times have become a common problem for many people, which in fairness is just as true across other sectors (financial, utilities etc.) as it is for home broadband providers. Nevertheless the situation has created a complex set of problems and some ISPs have been better at tackling those than others.

For example, customers who reached the end of their contract will have found it harder to haggle for a lower price or to switch ISP, which could leave them exposed to higher post-contract prices. Ofcom’s decision to soften their enforcement (here) of the new end-of-contract notifications system, among other areas, won’t have helped (some providers, like TalkTalk, have thankfully continued to send these).

which_uk_problems_contacting_isp_2020

Which? says they heard from a nurse on a COVID-19 ward who was on a broadband contract paying £18 a month, but when the cost went up to £50 after her minimum term ended in March, she started shopping around. However, the lockdown restrictions meant she was unable to switch as she was told an engineer would need to visit but that wouldn’t be possible until restrictions were lifted. The ISP eventually agreed to reduce her bill to £31.

In fairness most ISPs have been prioritising connections for Key Workers, particularly NHS staff where exceptions are made to the restrictions. Likewise only certain connection types (e.g. FTTP and G.fast on Openreach) have been affected by suspended installations and those too could be solved once somebody is verified as working for the NHS.

Separately the magazine conducted an analysis of broadband deals from bigger ISPs, which found that customers who are coming to the end of their minimum term during the lockdown could still face price hikes of “up to” 80% cent (most increases are much smaller than that) and as large as £246 a year. Meanwhile 14% of broadband customers told Which? that they were unable to switch ISP during lockdown when their contract ended.

Richard Tang, Founder and Chair of ISP Zen Internet, said:

“Whilst broadband providers have managed to maintain a high level of service – enabling the country to connect with loved ones, work, learn and entertain – it is disappointing to see that weak customer service continues to tarnish the industry as key players are left flat footed in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

Now more than ever households are dependent on broadband to connect them with the outside world, and customers are entitled to speak to their providers to negotiate better deals and access support. With the connectivity of the nation resting on our shoulders, the industry has a duty to communicate with its customers.

At Zen, our foundations are rooted in strong customer service – and our UK-based call centre was ready to adapt from the very start of lockdown. We continue to reach 90% of calls within 45 seconds, ensuring that we put our customers first. In addition, our Lifetime Price Guarantee ensures Zen customers are never hit with price hikes at the end of their contracts while they remain on the same service, unlike the customers of most other broadband providers.”

The good news is that all those lockdown restrictions are starting to soften and Openreach is beginning a phased return to work, including conducting new service provisions again. At the same time it’s worth saying that during this period a lot of ISPs have suspended annual price hikes and have also given customers lots of bonus features too (e.g. unlimited calling, free TV channels, unlimited data), albeit often only temporarily.

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25 Responses
  1. Avatar Matt

    Unfortunately this is the case, it took me over 2 weeks of constant attempts to get in touch with Virgin By call, text and web chat.

    As this was to make changes under the 14 day handback I’m now stuck with a service for a further 30 days and at a loss to try and speak to someone for help….

    Just £97 down the drain really.

    The question is, why? accrding to Virgin they are still operating their UK based service offices, is this a question of using overseas or out of house customer service solutions.

    On a positive note, the support via the community forums has been awesome with the additional hands of there technicians and engineers taking to working from home.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      I don’t think the handback time line will restrict you, as a consumer, if VM have failed in their obligations by not taking reasonable instructions.

      They can’t simply stop answering the phone and then say that you are locked in!

    • Avatar Matt

      I know but trying to convey that message and get somebody to action it is near enough impossible at the moment, specially as it seems everyone you talk to is in some sort of home office.

  2. Avatar Rich

    I also had issues when my virgin contract expired on 1st April. Made worse by duff information from their call centre and a complete inability to get hold of anyone useful (and taking over an hour to get through at all).

    I get it’s exceptional circumstances but they wanted to put my bill from £32 to £68 so I had to deal with it.if they can’t offer the customer service right now to deal with massive price hikes they should have just suspended price hikes.

    • Avatar Matt

      Certainly seems everywhere I’ve looked at the moment, and this includes all bills and also cost of living like retail that everybody is being fleeced.

      I’m just making notes of it currently and will shop according in future.

  3. Avatar edward

    “Which? says they heard from a nurse on a COVID-19 ward who was on a broadband contract paying £18 a month, but when the cost went up to £50…. blah blah”

    Oh please, here we go with the poor nurses, poor NHS people blub.

    Sorry yes they have had a tough time of things but when it comes to financial ones how about you shut your damned mouth and clap for those that have had no choice but to pay the £50 with no job at all.

    I may sound mean (no doubt this will get a mean response) but seriously someone (anyone) in work moaning they have had to pay a higher price for something when people are loosing there businesses, jobs and possibly homes needs to shut the hell up when it comes to money concerns.

    • Avatar Matt

      I agree, its been a s*** time (to put it bluntly) for those of US with a reduced or no income and despite all this ‘help’ supposedly being available its not materialised in the slightest.

      Its took me until now for EE to accept £20 less this month but I gotta pay it back next month.

      To top that off my employers has only been paying me around 60% of my expected earnings and despite them saying I would get holiday on top they’ve decided to only pay out 20% of holiuday pay accrued as a top up so thats another 80% of something I earn’t just been swallowed up.

      Meanwhile messages conveyed around the general public are basically, if your not needed to now then your useless….

      OH and farmers…. well they can kiss my…. for any care in the future after leaving 1000’s of us out to dry when we tried to help them help us.

      Rant over.

    • Avatar dean

      “but seriously someone (anyone) in work moaning they have had to pay a higher price for something when people are loosing there businesses, jobs and possibly homes needs to shut the hell up when it comes to money concerns.”

      The NHS think they are celebrities now, off in their own little world and of course with that it means your self-entitled ego demands lots of free S6!T by default.

    • Avatar AlanP

      ‘OH and farmers…. well they can kiss my…. for any care in the future after leaving 1000’s of us out to dry when we tried to help them help us.’

      Farms in my local area wanted/needed people to pick fruit. My mother who has lived in the area for years offered to help for free but could only do so on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They said that was not helpful enough so refused.

      Others in the local area were willing to work full time (Mon-Sat) until they found out the farm wanted them out picking from 8am to 2pm daily for a wage of £30 per day (that equates to £5 per hour). Many rightly so were disgusted, although apparently paying a daily wage as opposed to an hourly wage is legal (i have no idea if that is true).

      No wonder they ended up with little help from the British public and instead are crying and wanting the Romanians back, i guess slave labour is alive and well even if you have to import it.

      Typical of this country, give anyone any hint they are in some way important and it goes right to their tiny brains.

    • Avatar E

      AlanP whatever way the farmer wants to work it out, it has to meet the minimum hourly rate. Problem is that farmers have tight overheads (not that I’m making excuses for them) but they have just as much responsibility to pay fairly as anyone else and a lot of them are tight .

    • Avatar Matt

      @E – Yes, I’m sure the responsible of employers would of been paying a minimum wage, however they also preffer those who work for them to live onsite in cramped caravans so they have to pay rent and board…

      So what gets paid out also comes back.

    • Avatar Stephen Wakeman

      Why would anyone clap for you? If you’ve got no job but enough time and noise to comment on an ISP article in such a spiteful fashion you might want to try a different tactic.

      NHS staff are underpaid. It’s easy for you to sit there on your jobless arse and complain that anybody getting paid anything for job ought to be grateful, but that isn’t how life works. You get paid for doing nothing while doing nothing whereas you seem to expect an NHS worker to put themselves at risk and serve YOU, to put up and shut up? Wow.

      If you’re out of a job and struggling to make ends meet, what do you YOU need a £50 pm telecoms bundle for? Get a £15 per month sim only and use WiFi hotspot. And then use the time and money you’ve saved and invest in contributing to something or at the very least ditching your entitled drivel.

    • Avatar edward

      “Why would anyone clap for you? If you’ve got no job…”

      I work in a factory making toilet roll, i do not want anyone to clap for me for doing my job. Especially when it would be applause from those so stupid they panic buy what i produce.

      “NHS staff are underpaid…”

      Really they earn less than minimum wage do they? Also if you have a issue with what you are paid in a job then like the fruit pickers example above, perhaps they should tell them to stick it and find better if they feel that under worth.

      “It’s easy for you to sit there on your jobless arse and complain that anybody getting paid anything for job ought to be grateful, but that isn’t how life works.”

      Firstly again i have a job and secondly that is exactly how life works. At this moment in time, record amounts of people have been made unemployed or lost their business. For some diva nurse to start whinging a bill has gone up when they have money coming in and a job when many others in the same situation genuinely will struggle to pay bills is deplorable.

      “whereas you seem to expect an NHS worker to put themselves at risk and serve YOU, to put up and shut up?”

      I do not expect anything, when you take a job in the NHS part of that job is knowing you may come into contact with deadly medical conditions. We did not clap them when bird flu was here or the original SARS, nor a ton of other conditions. If you do not want to risk your life, do not do a job that calls for you to do so, find something else.

      “If you’re out of a job and struggling to make ends meet, what do you YOU need a £50 pm telecoms bundle for?”

      People that have had that bundle for years may not have been struggling to make ends meet until now. Also you best ask the diva nurse why she still needed it as if you read the story she did not really want to shop around she just wanted her discount which, whomever the ISP was appears, sadly to had caved to her demands.

      “or at the very least ditching your entitled drivel.”

      Me entitled??? Im not the NHS nurse worker that wanted everyone to “stay home, protect the NHS” who then goes whining to Which magazine she can not get through to an ISPs customer support as they have errrrrr stayed home to errrrrr protect the NHS. Lets give the idiot a clap.

    • Avatar Eyeroll pls

      Edward, has it maybe occurred to you that nurses are not responsible for government policy or comms?

      Do you think it was nurses who organised the applause? Are they out clapping themselves. Maybe just think it through.

    • Avatar edward

      “Are they out clapping themselves. Maybe just think it through.”

      Here is a few nurses mixing with the public fresh off their COVID infested wards at 8pm outside clapping…
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCs3qQhTejY&feature=youtu.be&t=195

      and its just one example, there are hundreds of videos out there. Ill post more if you disbelieve it.

      The people that are clapping also seem to be morons…
      https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/04/17/police-criticised-allowing-people-flout-lockdown-rules-clap/
      and from that news item we can only all assume the police are not there to protect us all, if you clap like a moron though its ok.

      When the idiots, that clap in large groups spreading the virus stop, when the Police issues fines where they should be to disperse large groups happens and when the NHS stop banging on about how bad the spread of COVID is when they are potentially assisting in its spread mixing in their contaminated scrubs/PPE with the public i will have some respect for the fools you drop to your knees for.

    • Avatar AlanP

      “When the idiots, that clap in large groups spreading the virus stop, when the Police issues fines where they should be to disperse large groups happens and when the NHS stop banging on about how bad the spread of COVID is when they are potentially assisting in its spread mixing in their contaminated scrubs/PPE with the public i will have some respect for the fools you drop to your knees for.”

      I would also add to that little group of hypocrites that when government advisers that break the rules, accept and pay a fine for the rules they broke and then also resign i will have some respect for our new do as we say not as we do group of overlord cretins. Oh and the same goes for the opposition and Mr Corbins brother who decided to go protesting in London.

      All a bunch of crap how the public have been treated, the trouble is there is an element of society nowadays that can not see it and are just happy to do what they are told without question or a single thought from their single brain cell. Which is why the do as we say not as we do overlords can get away with it.

      Quiet frankly when this is all over (probably before the end of summer no doubt as they will not be able to keep those that still have brains indoors) the nervous little bunnies of society and the panic every time someone gets within an arms length of them is going to be hilarious. Just in time for the Autumn/Winter 2020 Media frenzy to bang on about how badly the virus crisis has affected mental health of the darling yes we will do whatever you say drips re entering society and normality.

  4. Avatar Paul Barrett

    Well during this CV19 thing I have instituted 2 new broadband contracts with 3.
    No engineer required.
    Just removed the router from the box it was posted in and plugged into the wall.
    Instant internet at about 96mbps.

    DON’T know what all the fuss is about.
    Oh! plus as an existing 3 customer got each unlimited data contract for £17pm for a 24 month contract.

    Appreciate that perhaps the 3 data signal may not be strong in all areas.

    But beats fixed line for most and it can be put wherever required at any address.

    I have 4 occupiers using the service all at the same time.
    No issues so far.
    If you aren’t a 3 customer just go to TCB or Quidco and sign up for the broad band contracts and you’ll receive about £75 cashback which effectively reduces the monthly amount to about £14pm.

    For many broadband using mobile routers is the way to go.

    Personally I just use a 3 mobile unlimited everything at £17pm
    Last month I used 285gb
    Speed is about 90mbps.

    On a SIM only contract for a year after which I will carry on with a rolling monthly contract for the same price.
    Oh! Plus I’m on half price for 6 months.

    3 are pretty much unbeatable for capacity and cost.

  5. Avatar Hepworrh

    Trying to get in touch with vm virtually impossible. I have been waiting since 8.4.20 for construction team to unblock cable duct. I am on a splitter with neighbour so services could be installed as new customer. Had 2 Bills first should have had free installation but been charged anyway.

  6. Avatar Mark

    This survey seems utterly pointless, it’s only setting the obvious to me..
    As for the comments on here, the usual expected tiff raft, so sorry you’ve lost your job, shame it wasn’t your life? Why should the NHS risk theirs for yours with no PPE working in an environment infested with Covid 19 eh?
    If this was a war most of you lost would refuse to sign up and moan about losing your jobs or having to make weapons all day on here.. The older generations from the World War tones are a true inspiration of what actually matters in life, that’s been totally lost on the sad excuse of the current generation of humans..

    • Avatar StayAwake

      “Why should the NHS risk theirs for yours with no PPE working in an environment infested with Covid 19 eh?”

      What the hell are you talking about. Most of the NHS are not working or are working in a limited capacity, but unlike others still being paid or at the least a job to return to.
      Doctors/G.P. surgery’s are for the most part closed.
      Any operations have been postponed.
      Chronic conditions such as cancer treatment stopped.
      A&E is basically filled with a bunch of medical staff sat around doing nothing as everyone is afraid to turn up drunk or with a paper cut which is what its normally full of.

      If the virus is bad please run along and tell those that are working to stop wandering outside in their virus laden medical garments every Thursday and mingling with the public and the police that have then been instructed to also interact with the public.

      Perhaps if they and the government also had any sense like other countries certain hospitals would had been dedicated to deal with COVID only whilst other hospitals remained opened for other health care conditions, rather than having hospitals having an A&E right next to the COVID ward.

      Run along and clap like a Sea Lion.

    • Avatar StayAwake

      “The older generations from the World War tones are a true inspiration of what actually matters in life, that’s been totally lost on the sad excuse of the current generation of humans..”

      The older generation from World War 2 fought for our freedoms and for the NHS to be set up, the same generation are no not allowed to leave their home now whether they want to or not. Oh and don’t give me its for their own safety crap, my grandad who turns 99 this year in his own words thinks this covid is a load of bollocks. The freedoms he fought for have been stripped from him, he does not even get to choose.

    • Avatar Mark

      @Stayawake your first comment is utterly invalid and pure hyperbole as you have not provided a shred of evidence to back it up, and my GP is still open and will see you if necessary, as is my local A&E department, indeed the government actively encourages you to use these facilities if required, which somewhat flies right in the face if your ‘opinion’.

      As for the second comment, you merely displayed my comment flew right over your head, one generation is relaxed and calm, indeed doing what they can to raise money, are taking it in their stride as they remember the world war and great depression that they lived through that was far worst. The other generation are only concerned about money and the economy themselves personally and they can’t go out for a few weeks, even though now you can, and they are utterly incapable of following some simple guidelines for a few weeks, as opposed to being in a war for several years, oh and by the way they had enforced curfews during war times. One generation are proper people, the others sad pathetic self opinionated self important and arrogant wastes of space. in human evolution.

    • Avatar StayAwake

      You’re an idiot
      https://lmgtfy.com/?q=GPs+ordered+to+close

      and FFS learn to use a full-stop.

  7. Avatar illus

    My Dad had a problem with his broadband at the start of lockdown.
    I found +net’s phone number for him to ring and report it.
    Their phone message said “Due to COVID we are not taking phone calls, look on support section of our website”
    How is a pensioner with no broadband, in lockdown, social isolating, supposed to access a web-page??!!
    When he did get hold of their support, they suggested he went to Argos and bought a new router!

    • Avatar Jonathan

      That’s patently not true. I rang Plusnet at the start of lockdown to sort out the phone and consequently the broadband at my mother’s. In fixing a neighbour’s line they had damagaged my mother’s line. More specifically it had been damaged sometime in the past and it had snapped when doing other work on the pole. Amazingly it was still working at much reduced speeds though the phone was unusable for voice. It’s fixed sort of as the speed is still well below hand back, but till I can visit for a full investigation it will have to do and at 45/9 speeds it is way better than many, though it should be very close to a full 80/20.

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