As the UK’s communications industry regulator, Ofcom regularly receives information and complaints from consumers about their telecoms services, including fixed broadband, landline, pay-monthly mobile and pay TV services. In an effort to give both consumers and service providers a better understanding of the reasons behind these complaints, Ofcom has compiled that data into a report highlighting which providers receive the most complaints and which ones perform above the industry average.
The Ofcom telecoms and pay TV complaints report shows several trends in customer complaint data, the most positive being the steady decrease in customer complaints about fixed broadband, landline, and mobile services, with pay TV complaints levels staying pretty stable.
Unfortunately, fixed broadband and landline services continued to generate the highest volume of complaints, with Plusnet revealed to be the most complained about broadband provider.
Here are some of the report’s key findings in further detail.
Ofcom’s research found that Plusnet generated the highest volume of complaints per 100,000 subscribers when it came to fixed broadband. The majority of these complaints centred on billing, pricing and charges, with 38% of the total complaints registered falling under this category. The other main causes for complaint amongst Plusnet customers were complaints handling (28%) as well as faults, service and provision issues (26%).
However, it’s worth noting that the research also revealed that the volume of complaints with respect to Plusnet has decreased from Q4 2018, even though the provider generated the highest volume of fixed broadband complaint per 100,000 subscribers in Q1 2019.
Vodafone, TalkTalk and BT were the other three fixed broadband providers that also scored higher than the industry average for the number of complaints per 100,000 subscribers.
Again, using the metric of the number of complaints per 100,000 subscribers in order to adjust for the varying size of each provider’s customer base, EE and Sky generated the lowest volume of fixed broadband complaints in Q1 2019.
The actual measurable difference between Sky and EE’s fixed broadband complaints per 100,000 was less than one, meaning their results are pretty much the same. However, it’s worth noting that EE is technically the winner in this category, but not by much.
There was a fairly even split between the main fixed broadband providers of those that generated more or less than the industry average, found to be 13 complaints per 100,000 subscribers.
The Post Office wasn’t far behind in terms of fewest complaints with eight per 100,000, and Virgin Media sits just under the industry average line at 10 complaints per 100,000 subscribers.
One overarching positive finding from Ofcom’s research was the fact that, when comparing with Q1 and Q4 2018, the total volume of complaints per 100,000 subscribers decreased in Q1 2019. This general trend of fewer complaints was seen across three services: fixed broadband, landline, and mobile. The one area of the telecoms industry that bucked the trend was the number of complaints regarding pay TV, which remained broadly the same in Q1 2019.
Dani Warner, broadband expert at uSwitch.com, says: “It’s disappointing to once again see Plusnet as the most complained about provider for landline and broadband, despite the volume of complaints falling since the end of last year.”
"Overall, however, the bigger picture presents a better story, with fewer complaints about both mobile and broadband providers across the board.
“In a competitive marketplace where consumers are spoilt for choice by a wide range of comparable and high-quality offerings, customer service is a crucial battleground for providers to attract and retain users. But for many companies, customer service still does not meet the standards that consumers deserve and expect.
“On the mobiles side, Tesco Mobile generated the lowest volume of customer complaints per 100,000 people, with Virgin and Vodafone receiving the most.
“Meanwhile in pay TV, TalkTalk was the most complained about service, with consumer grievances doubling from the end of last year.
"You shouldn’t be reluctant to complain to your provider if you have a problem or aren’t happy with the service you are paying for. If you remain dissatisfied, don’t forget you can take your complaint to the appropriate ombudsman services, who will review your case free of charge.
"If you’ve had enough of the poor service you're paying for and you're out of contract, it’s easy to move to a service that better suits your needs. Ofcom’s new text-to-switch service makes changing your mobile provider easier than ever.”