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Ofcom Shames Virgin Media and O2 for UK Telecoms Complaints UPDATE

Thursday, Jan 25th, 2024 (9:52 am) - Score 12,240
complaint UK consumer broadband isp and phone gripes

Ofcom has published their latest study of UK consumer complaints for Q3 2023, which names Virgin Media as the worst for attracting the most gripes about fixed broadband, landline phone and pay TV services. Meanwhile, O2, which is part of the same company, attracted the most complaints for Pay Monthly Mobile services.

Suffice to say, it’s not been a good quarter for VMO2, although Ofcom acknowledges that their decision in July 2023 to launch an investigation into the difficulties the operator’s customers were facing in cancelling contracts, and how it had handled related complaints, may have played a part by prompting more customers to complain (here).

NOTE: Ofcom received 76,135 calls, web forms, emails and letters directly from consumers in 2021/22 (down from 96,051 in 2020/21).

A VMO2 spokesperson said:

“Our number one priority is to provide an excellent service to our customers, and we accept that the rise in complaints in the third quarter falls far short of our expectations.

As Ofcom acknowledges, the rise is largely due to its investigation announcement in July which subsequently generated a higher number of complaints than would ordinarily be expected. However, it should be noted that overall complaints about Virgin Media and O2 products still represent a very small proportion of our customer base.

As well as engaging fully with Ofcom’s ongoing investigation, we are investing in every area of our business to give our customers the best possible experience, with a real focus on resolving any issues at the first time of getting in touch and making it easier for them to get support when they need it.”

The regulator’s new report only covers complaints that Ofcom itself has received and not those sent directly to an ISP, the ISPA or an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) complaints handler (i.e. Ombudsman Services or CISAS). Ofcom does not deal with individual complaints, but they do monitor them and can take action if enough people raise a concern.

Otherwise, the results below reflect a proportion of residential subscribers (i.e. the total number of quarterly complaints per 100,000 customers per provider), which makes it easier to compare providers in a market where ISPs can vary significantly in size. But sadly, the study only covers feedback from the largest ISPs (i.e. those with a market share of at least 1.5%) due to limited data.

Take note that the proportion of people who were satisfied with their communications services in 2023 was 77% (unchanged from last year) for landline services, 82% (down from 83%) for broadband services and 87% (down from 91%) for all mobile services.

Fixed Line Home Broadband Complaints

As above, Virgin Media attracted the most broadband complaints in Q3 2023, with related gripes against the ISP mainly being driven by issues related to gripes about poor complaints handling (46%). On the flip side, Sky Broadband continued to attract the fewest complaints of all the listed providers.

  Q4 2022 Q1 2023 Q2 2023 Q3 2023
BT 10 12 13 11
EE 7 7 7 9
NOW Broadband (NOW TV) 10 9 13 18
Plusnet 10 12 11 11
Shell Energy 27 16 13 13
Sky Broadband 5 5 5 5
TalkTalk 18 20 18 15
Virgin Media 14 15 15 32
Vodafone 19 17 24 15
Industry Average 11 12 12 15

Fixed Line Phone Complaints

Once again, Virgin Media attracted the most complaints for fixed line phone services, where the top moan related to issues of poor complaints handling (49%). By comparison, Sky Broadband (Sky Talk) once again attracted the fewest complaints.

  Q4 2022 Q1 2023 Q2 2023 Q3 2023
BT 6 8 7 7
EE 3 5 6 5
NOW Broadband (NOW TV) 5 6 7 11
Plusnet 7 7 7 7
Shell Energy 25 10 10 8
Sky Broadband 2 3 2 2
TalkTalk 11 13 10 10
Virgin Media 7 9 10 19
Vodafone 8 7 8 5
Industry Average 6 7 7 8

Mobile Complaints

Mobile operators still enjoy lower complaint levels than fixed line providers, but O2 (VMO2) attracted the most gripes, with issues around how complaints were handled (31%) and issues related to service or provisioning faults (29%) driving most of it. By comparison, EE and Sky Mobile both attracted the fewest gripes.

The table also list’s BT as attracting a lot of complaints, but it’s worth pointing out that they no longer sell mobile plans to new customers.

  Q4 2022 Q1 2023 Q2 2023 Q3 2023
BT Mobile 4 7 8 5
O2 3 4 5 6
iD Mobile 2 4 4 4
Sky Mobile 1 2 2 2
Tesco Mobile 2 2 3 3
Three UK 2 3 4 4
Virgin Mobile 3 4 8  
Vodafone 2 3 3 3
EE 2 3 2 2
Industry Average 2 3 3 3

Pay TV Complaints

Finally, Virgin Media attracted the most complaints for Pay TV. Sky received the fewest pay-TV complaints.

  Q4 2022 Q1 2023 Q2 2023 Q3 2023
BT 7 11 10 7
Sky TV 1 2 2 2
TalkTalk 3 4 4 1
Virgin Media 8 9 10 20
Industry Average  3 5 5 7

Ofcom’s Consumer Complaints Report Q3 2023
https://www.ofcom.org.uk/../telecoms-and-pay-tv-complaints

UPDATE 11:19am

Sky has issued a statement.

Devesh Raj, Sky’s Group Chief Operating Officer, said:

“Delivering the best Sky experience is not only underpinned by innovative products, unmissable content, and a reliable network, but by offering outstanding customer service. Having watched our teams across the business work with care and dedication every day, I’m very pleased that we’ve maintained our position as the least complained about provider yet again across Broadband, Talk, Mobile, and Pay-TV services.”

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
37 Responses
  1. Avatar photo O2Employee says:

    Guilty!

  2. Avatar photo Jonny says:

    Ofcom confuse me. They make a lot of effort to tell people that they can’t really help and to complain to providers or ADR, but then they publish these reports on a regular basis which cannot have captured all the complaint data since they try and put people off complaining direct to Ofcom. Then in the process of putting out the complaint data they’re almost making excuses for VM by saying that their announcement might have caused more people to come forward.

    The whole thing is a bit of a mess.

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      I do think that one way to improve matters would be for Ofcom to include the complaints data from their approved ADR providers, not as a merged figure (risk of duplication), but as a separate data set to provide wider context.

    2. Avatar photo APJ says:

      AwfulCom are just as useless and ineffective as AwfulGem: both have demonstrated in recent years that they are not fit for purpose and do not have consumers interest at heart. They should be disbanded and new consumer centric regulators established which have consumers the treats and rights at the front and centre.

    3. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Disbanding is kind of pointless, you’d just be playing musical chairs inside the same building, with the same people and putting a different name on top, while adding significant delays and leaving a gap in governance.

      The government could instead give Ofcom a different regulatory focus, but given how complex the areas they cover are, you’d probably still end up back in the same place.

      The reality is that regulation of complex markets is a slow and difficult process – there are no magic pills that will satisfy everybody or fix everything. But I do agree, there is room for improvement on the pro-consumer action and engagement side, although to resolve that you’d first need to get the government to understand the what and why of how it needs to change.

    4. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      Speaking as somebody who has worked in business strategy across several regulated industries, and now works for a regulator, I can offer an idea that would resolve this. Government needs a single customer service regulator that applies similar standards to any sectors deemed to need regulation. All the complicated industry specific stuff (spectrum allocations, broadcasting standards, energy trading, economic regulation of networks etc etc) would remain with sector regulators, but all customer service stuff done to the same standards by the same regulator, rather than a multitude of different regulators applying vaguely similar yet non-identical and sometimes quirky rules and multiple different ADR schemes.

      Chances of this happening, nil, but where’s the logic in having different customer services regulation across every single regulator? It would also lead to a clear focus on customer service rather than the at best divided loyalties of captured sector regulators, and lead to consistent enforcement.

    5. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

      Absolutely. OFCOM needs to be the champion of the consumer, not a toothless panderer to the corporations its “supposed” to regulate but in reality doesn’t. Its direction and focus is completely wrong, I get the feeling it’s ran very much like our government with mandarin civil service workers chasing their tails or if its inconvenient burying their collective heads in the sand….and little else.

  3. Avatar photo Phil says:

    Virgin Media named and ashamed! Hope they take over by someone else!

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Read the article again, Phil.

    2. Avatar photo Anon says:

      They’re not ashamed. Customer service at VM has been pants for years now, management know full well how poor their customer service is and don’t care (if they did, things would change).

      The only curious thing is why Richard Branson tolerates his brand being dragged through the muck by this dreadful company. For those who don’t know, Virgin Group own the Virgin brand, and in the case of Virgin Media they licence the brand to the US/Spanish joint venture that operates as VMO2. Branson and his interests own Virgin Group, but has no ownership of Virgin Media, and no control of it.

    3. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

      Totally. They couldn’t care less. They make it so difficult to leave these days, even going as far as taking a written letter requesting to cancel all services as a complaint. It wasn’t a complaint, it was a request to cancel clear as day!

      They give themselves 60 days to reply with the idea that it keeps you with them. (Had this lovely experience with my mother leaving Virgin last year.

  4. Avatar photo Matt says:

    What is it that sky does that most others appear to miss that they are always the lowest by a fair distance in a lot of cases.

    1. Avatar photo Danny says:

      Throw money at the issue in most cases.

    2. Avatar photo Stu says:

      Leaving VM is quite straightforward really. Legally they must be provided (in writing by hand or email), notice of contract termination. This can be given in advance, say 1 calendar month before your contract is due to end. Include a screen shot of your online contract showing the end date(for emails or a printout for postal use).
      State that you will end the direct debit with your bank and no further payments will be made to them from the contract end date. Also request a confirmation from them that they basically understand,although it wouldn’t be that important in the case of “notice to finalise a contract”
      I’ve used this method before as advised by a solicitor friend and it worked a treat with issues from the supplier. My experience with ‘signed for’ letters and large companies has never been a good one. They either refuse to sign for it or they sign any silly old name which then becomes’untraceable’when the issues start!

  5. Avatar photo Jack says:

    When you have an issue with Sky they usually offer some compensation as a way of stopping a complaint.

  6. Avatar photo tech3475 says:

    VM were a PITA when it came to my parents contract renewal, still not 100% but its over a feature my parents dont care about and was told to leave alone.

    I’m left wondering if a hallucinating ChatGPT would be an improvement.

    If tomorrow someone comes to my door asking me to join, I’ll probably be holding back laughter.

    1. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

      ChatGPT would be make it too easy in Virgin’s view, for customers to leave……they’ll do anything to keep you.

  7. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

    Interesting to see the difference for fixed broadband between EE & BT/Plusnet. You would have thought they would have been broadly comparable. No surprise to see the usual suspects down the bottom. Pay cheap, get cheap

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Careful: this can be gamed.

  8. Avatar photo Martyn says:

    anywhere state the customers vs complaints ratio??

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      These are all quarterly complaints per 100,000 customers.

    2. Avatar photo Anon says:

      It’s not total complaints per 100k customers, it’s just those complaints that customers take to Ofcom (who do nothing about them other than count them). Complaints made directly to the ISP/telco aren’t recorded, so Ofcom’s numbers are a significant under-representation of how many customers feel a need to complain.

      If you try to compare these numbers to (say) energy complaints, you can’t Ofgem require suppliers to record and notify all complaints, rather than relying on those few where customers escalate to the regulator. Admittedly Ofgem don’t do anything with the individual complaints either, but at least their numbers are more reflective of reality.

      As usual, Ofcom’s complaints data is a disappointing effort from an underperforming regulator.

    3. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

      you’re too kind Anon. Underperforming means they do in some way perform. But perform what exactly? I’ve seen very little evidence of action from them, but more talk generally designed to make them look good, when in reality they are a pointless Quango.

    4. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Not sure you can compare them. Don’t only notifiable complaints with a specific format end up at Ofgem, not all of them?

      Can complain direct to Ofcom, don’t think folks may complain to Ofgem.

      If all complaints ended up with the regulator it would be a nightmare in telecoms given how spurious some complaints are.

  9. Avatar photo David Johnson says:

    I’m on M350 for 66.25 monthly. On upgrade I can get the same for 60 for 18 month then 80 after. I can further grade to M500 for a extra 5 making it 65 a month for 18 months then 85 after. On top of that there is the raise in those prices every April, the amount their allowed plus an extra 3.something %.
    As a new customer you get the 1Gb which is double the M500 for 42 per month on fixed term contract to start with, the rest of the details I didn’t check but I’m assuming it’s the same 20 increase after 18 months.
    If you want to know why people are leaving virgin that might contribute. I’m looking for different ISP not better different, fairer to loyal customers and lower prices. Maybe ofcom should investigate that.

    1. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

      I know David. Its like because it says “you’re monthly fee will raise to £XX a month at the end of your contract” it’s like perfectly acceptable for them. They should make it £100 a month more, after all it won’t make any difference! Because who in their right mind is going to accept paying double for the same service after a contract ends ANYWAY??? NOBODY.

  10. Avatar photo No name says:

    I really hope VM improve. They are the only realistic supplier at my address and talking to them is like pulling out your own teeth whilst trying to herd cats.

    Sky are doing stuff right. I have stream and it’s been problematic since launch, although alot of the bugs are fixed now it’s about 18 months old. They’ve always been really interested in any feedback about problems. They’ve got software that allows you to film replication steps while on the phone to CS so their developers can get on fixing issues with proper evidence based off real world setups.

    If OR rolled out FTTP here I’d probably move over to Sky.

    1. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

      Knowing they are the only realistic supplier at your (and my) address, is the very reason they don’t want to improve.

  11. Avatar photo Rikki Bradshaw says:

    I was on virgin mobile and never had a single issue with my network or mobile Internet but since the moved me over on to o2 it has been absolutely shocking!!! I’m lucky if I have more than 1 bar signal and I have no hope of using of using the gamepass app like I used to be able to half the time watching a simple YouTube video is close to impossible

  12. Avatar photo Natalie says:

    You cannot get a telephone number to talk to Virgin, only number they now have is for payments only. I’m paying £128.00 a month for a terrible service. Been with them for over 15 yes. They need a boot up the backside and start putting the customer first.

    1. Avatar photo Winston Smith says:

      Virgin Media customer services is 0345 454 1111.

  13. Avatar photo Not Marina sorti says:

    Now broadband, which had been close to the bottom of the table would be the worst if it hadn’t been due to virgin messing up so badly.

    Q3 was when they had been moving jobs from Northern Ireland to India.

    Lots of great people worked and loved their jobs for NOW but sadly they had to move on to other pastures.

    It’s a sad world where companies swap a good thing for a mediocre thing just for coat cutting reasons

    1. Avatar photo Anon says:

      Companies can do this because paying customers choose to accept poor service.

  14. Avatar photo Derek Bissett says:

    The thing i hate about VM I can’t drop my telephone, i dont want it or need it theres no phone connected its just a waste of money!

    1. Avatar photo Mark says:

      Easy to get rid of the phone, just pick it up and smash it on the floor, but i know what you mean, about time something was done about these clowns.
      Never had any problems with my current provider, but virgin is appalling to deal with, any problem solved is by leaving, then they whack you with a leaving fee, for five years virgin was unable to come to my area, but as soon as my current provider came, oh yes we can provide virgin, just how many days does it take to connect up then.
      My current provider connected me up in 2 days, virgin had issue after issue after issue, the tv went wrong after 4 days,
      Nothing got done, no one came, even after 4 calls, broadband went off 5 times, then phone stopped etc, in the end i left because i was spending more time trying to get through and complainig, when i did finally get through, i cancelled the lot, nothing was said about a termination fee,
      Was charged £250 early cancellation.
      For a nothing service…! Complete shambles.

    2. Avatar photo Stu says:

      VM are con merchants. They always say a renewed contract is always cheaper with the line connected? Funny too how you can very easily upgrade your service via the tv app but you can’t downgrade or cancel anything!

  15. Avatar photo garry says:

    O2 are rubbish my dad died last November still getting letters from them very upsetting

Comments are closed

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