/ Technology

Britain’s biggest broadband and phone complaints

Phone customers in maze

Broken broadband router? Internet unexpectedly cut off? Out-of-the-blue price increase? Poor customer service that doesn’t actually fix your problem? If any of these sound familiar, you’re not alone.

I’m not really a home phone user, but my broadband and mobile are both invaluable to me, so if something goes wrong it’s a right old pain.

Well, in the past six months we’ve had nearly 1,000 complaints from Which? members about broadband, home phone and mobile providers. The most common problems over all these services were revealed to be…

Top five broadband and phone complaints

Character with phone‘My provider’s putting up the price but I’m still in contract’ – providers can raise prices periodically even if you’re in a fixed contract. Some won’t let you exit without penalty. We think that’s wrong and we’re campaigning for fixed to mean fixed.

‘My broadband router or phone has stopped working’ – many broadband and mobile deals come with a router or handset as part of the price, but if it goes wrong it can seem difficult to get it replaced or fixed.

‘I’ve received poor customer service’ – this can cover a wide number of complaints, but if it boils down to you feeling that you’re being treated badly by a company you’re paying to provide you with a service, something’s gone very wrong.

‘My service has been cut off unexpectedly’ – whether you’ve been cut off by mistake or your broadband or phone network has gone down, it can be very frustrating.

‘I have problems with my billing’ – have you ever seen charges you don’t recognise popping up on your bill? Maybe you’ve been faced with a huge bill for data or calls?

We took these top complaints to 2,000 members of the general public, and overall one in 10 said they had experienced one of these above problems. Of course, there are problems that don’t cross all telecoms services. Our survey found that the top mobile phone complaint was poor network coverage, and the top broadband service complaint were connection problems and slow speeds.

Which customers are most likely to have problems?

Our research found that broadband customers seem to suffer the most, with half of the people we asked saying they had a problem last year.

As for the broadband companies that people are most likely to have problems with, our survey found that over the past year it was AOL Broadband and Orange. For mobile phones, it was Vodafone. And, as far as home phones go, it was Sky. Are you surprised by the appearance of any of these companies?

Customer service is key

All of the above problems are potentially as annoying as each other, but it’s poor customer service that I find most infuriating. After all, if you have a problem, you want to get it sorted. If your provider doesn’t seem helpful, that can be very frustrating.

I’m not saying that encountering a problem isn’t a pain, but if you can make a simple phone call to your provider and have it sorted in a matter of minutes then I probably wouldn’t think of them too badly. In fact, I might actually come away from the experience feeling more positive about them. Sadly it can often take days, weeks, even months of poor customer service and chasing to get a straight answer – never mind the problem actually being solved.

Have you suffered from any of the above broadband and phone problems? Do you have any top tips for getting a problem solved quickly?

Richard Bale says:
2 February 2013

I have used TalkTalk almost its beginning and having got over being overwhelmed by the initial uptake the service has been pretty good. Then in November we lost the servce for nearly 3 weeks. Support was abysmal and we were repeatedly asked to carry out the same tests which proved nothing. Finally an engneer was dispatched and he found a broken wire. I managed to extract a small sum of compensation from a manager. However servce is now restored so we hope for no further problems.

Jim, Maidstone says:
3 February 2013

I left TalkTalk because they couln’t (or wouldn’t) provide me with fibre broadband. They threatened to charge me an exit fee of £171-00. I told them that as I had been a customer for a number of years that I thought it was excessive and would be copying in yourselves, watchdog and the Daily Mail who were running a ‘wooden spoon’ award for the worst customer service.. I switched to Plusnet without a hitch and never heard any more about the fee.


Thanks for all the comments everyone. Very interesting to read your experiences of broadband and phone companies. We’ve rounded up some of the comments, including a Comment of the Week, in this post: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/your-view-your-biggest-broadband-and-phone-complaints/

Nelson Spring says:
4 February 2013

Apropos broadband, I read this with amazement. I’ve been with BT for several years and never had any significant downtime or price problems. Their BT Vison service is excellent, too. On the very few occasions I have needed help, their technical support has been free, friendly, efficient and effective. Apropos mobile phones, my experience with Vodafone has been mixed: I’ve never had a technical problem in the UK – good, reliable service all over the country. Their notorious customer service does really stink, though. If you can ever get through to it, you are dealt with cursorily and ignorantly. I was told my Vodafone mobile would work in Tenerife “without doing anything”. My wife’s Tesco mobile (resold O2?) did exactly that – without doing anything, it just worked. Mine didn’t – no connection at all, though Vodafone ads were all over the place. As for Sky, I would never touch anything which had Murdoch’s grubby mitts on, so I’m free of those gripes.

Ticker John says:
4 February 2013

I like Virgin phone,BBand TV.
SERVICE good and free , if there is a drawback it is that you need to argue the price for your complete package,b’ cos it did not seem to be particularly clear as to what you thought you
ordered ,and what you actually got.
john bloye higgins

richard says:
19 July 2013

I like Virgin phone,BBand TV too — had two problems in use in the 20 years – both very rapidly and politely solved – they upgraded to 20 megs as they promised on time I never needed to argue the price as it was exactly as I expected. Friends have problems Talk Talk

J Dorset says:
5 February 2013

If one doesn’t give up, BT will eventually sort out problems but it takes hours of trying, and talking to a remote call centre in India. To use a BT address for emails on Apple devices like the iPad there is a conflict and the Push feature has to be turned off. If not, an ‘incorrect password’ error message occurs and your @btinternet.com account is blocked. It is not clear why this has been recently introduced under the guise of ‘customer security’. Resetting a password can be a pain as the BT website only deals with Microsoft Outlook properly so phoning is needed. I have just spent over an hour resetting my email password on an iPad, an iMac and a MacBook Pro with a (helpful) advisor who was familiar with Apples. BT really needs to get a grip on its service to Apple users. As an example, on its relevant help screen where you fill in your equipment details etc, the tick boxes where you tick what OS you use don’t include Mountain Lion, the latest OS (in use for a long time now). There are many other instances of poor troubleshooting too, both Apple- specific and general.

Norman Downie says:
5 February 2013

Recently, BT announced unilaterally that my email was being converted to something called 365. The transfer was absolute chaos. I was supposed to log in and enter some details – but the BT system could not track “alias” addresses, so I never got logged in as requested. BT “Help” Desk told me we would not be transferred as they had a known error in their software, but of course, when the day came, we were transferred and lost our email capability. A week on and I still don’t have emails working on my Blackberry. What a bunch of incompetents! They don’t seem to relaise that all I need is a simple email service and that I’m not a techie who speaks their mumbo-jumbo. Please tell me to which provider I should move to get away from this sort of nonsense,