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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?


I received the Which Broadband survey and put down I was happy with Virgin Media. 2 hours later open a letter advising my monthly premium had gone up by nearly £7 a month. In the contract if Virgin increase the price you have 30 days to cancel the contract which I did, phone, broadband and TV and went to BT, Freeview (Youview) with a BT line.

Impressed with Youview, BT Infinity has been OK so far, we already had a BT phone line and I am saving min of £30 a month from what we paid Virgin. What annoyed me more is when I called to cancel I was offered a credit against the increase until the contract ended, this was after 3rd increase in a year. Made me even more determined to leave!

I don’t think BT are great, install was a bit of mess and I don’t know who to tell and whether they would listen but its working and glad we moved, so far but only 3rd week with BT, have 18 months to go.

Irene Bunce says:
25 January 2013

with BT Infinety is rubbish at times I can not get on the internet and it is slow and as soon as the 18 months is up I will change but need help on where to go.

Nick Bowles says:
1 February 2013

Hello, I am a Utility Warehouse customer – The customer service is second to none, polite and pretty efficient. I have Broadband, land line, mobile and Gas & Electric with them. I Have not had any real problems – I recommend them, they always do well in Which? surveys. have a look- you may want to book mark the site for the future.

[Hi Nick, please note we’ve removed the link from your comment as we don’t allow advertising. Thanks, Mods]

roy wilkinson says:
1 February 2013

I am very disappointed with BT broadband,I keep getting disconected and although I have complained nothing has been done about it.The call centre is based in India and I have difficulty in understanding the guy on the line and I am sure he is in the same position.Like you I shall be looking for new pastures.

Doug says:
1 February 2013

Hi Please try an ethernet connection(wired) I am with BT and having a low up & down speed 18 mps and this improved to 38 mps (BT Infinity) I am now on unlimited and get a staggering 58 mps.The connection is also stable.

David Jay says:
2 February 2013

go to Plusnet they have broadband and phone packages, and Shefield based with free service calls going to Sheffield. Excellent company

anniesboy says:
26 January 2013

Ive been with Plusnet now for two years and Im very happy with their UK based call centre.Their price to me has just been reduced. In addition I have no download restriction.
When I had a problem with the supplied router they rang me and replaced it.
Their members forum is also first class,on my recommendation my daughter signed up with them this reduced my bill by £1.25 per month,if I could persuade enough friends to join I could get my service for even less.

Gerard Phelan says:
26 January 2013

After 18 months with O2 the supplied router failed. I rang the support line which was answered in a few rings by a man who agreed that my diagnosis of failure was correct and arranged for me to get a new one by courier within 24 hours. Whilst I was on the phone he asked if I knew that in exchange for signing up for another year, I could get that year at half my current rate, which in turn was half what I was paying before moving to O2. So no complaints here.

I have been with Virgin Media for years and overall I find they are OK but not that cheap. I upgraded from 50Mb to 100Mb for free as the family were using more and more data for games etc. They are currently having a few issues with slow speeds. I think it may be because they are currently upgrading in readiness for 120Mb service.
In the past, getting through to complain has been a slow process but waiting times seem to have greatly reduced and the quality of customer service has also improved. I think that more competition from BT may have caused this to improve as we now have a real choice of service. My service dropped for 3 days recently and Virgin offered a reduction on my subscription for that period and called me once the problem had been rectified.

Rakesh says:
26 January 2013

I am with O2. I am getting best speed and top customer service from o2 so far. I have been with them more then a year. I had problem with router once but I was issued with replacement.
o2 also offered me Half price line rental for 12 months. I think O2 is best and value for money for me,

The main problem I have with Virgin Media is the video buffering. Website videos like YouTube, BBC iPlayer etc always have trouble loading, but everything else is otherwise very fast. This is a known problem with Virgin Media.

richard says:
29 January 2013

I use Virgin media – It is brilliant – it is on 24/7 for various reasons – Ever since it started I have had two cable boxes go wrong – both repaired free next day at a time of my choosing. – Broadband is 10Megs constantly – soon to be 20 Megs – gone off for an hour once or twice. The free 150 number gives fast access to expert advice (actually this has improved since they stopped using Asian Call centres) I am seriously impressed and totally satisfied – in comparison to the appalling “service” I had from BT – Directly Cable & Wireless laid cables I changed operators and have had superb service ever since.

I agree with all those positive points about Virgin Media. I am a happy customer. If only they could sort out the video buffering issue. I’m on their 60Mb broadband and only HD videos (especially 1080p) are slow most of the time – everything else is extremely fast. I rate them 8 out of 10 – and if they fixed the video buffering problem – I’d happily rate them 10 out of 10.

Ian Wingrove says:
1 February 2013

Yes go with a smaller independent company it will cost a little more but you will get a good service always somebody at the end of the line who speaks english & knows what they are talking about I am with fast.co.uk service has always been good.

Linda says:
1 February 2013

I moved from Plusnet Value to Plusnet fibre. I found their customer service on par with Carphone Warehouse i.e. rubbish. My problem was that I needed 4 ports on the router for all my existing hard wired equipment but did not discover until after the installation that 1 port on the new router is used for the bt fibre modem. Also the openreach engineer left without pointing out that I needed another port for my equipment and just left the cable hanging and for me to discover myself when the systems would not work. I phone their call centre and said that this should be made clear to customer when they upgrade that the actual router will mean that they can only use 3 ports because of the fibre modem. It was pointed out that I would need to purchase another router or another network port to use the equipment I was using before. I was told that I could return the router and purchase my own but that I could not get out of the contract. Not what I had come to expect from Plusnet. It was also that way that I was told that really annoyed me. I had to purchase an additional piece of equipment to be able to operate my systems. Will be changing as soon as contract period is up. because of how they treated me.

Rosemary says:
1 February 2013

At this very moment, I have a BT engineer changing our system so we can move from Virgin Media to plus.net This is on the advice of relatives, who say we can halve our monthly Virgin bill, which is very expensive. I’m only interested in landline and broadband, not TV channels etc, but Virgin don’t seem to offer an Essentials service, unlike plus.net

Troika says:
1 February 2013

We have been very satisfied with Zen for both broadband and voice telephone services. When there was a broadband connection problem, support detected that it was an exchange fault, notified BT, kept me updated and did not close the incident until I was satisfied.
On another occasion when I was having difficulty in sustaining a good broadband connection, support ran an analysis which indicated that the problem was with our internal telephone extension cabling, and then recommended a solution, which worked, and again did not close the incident until all was well.
While with Zen, the download allowance has increased from 5GB to 20GB per month, and the included anytime voice telephone allowance from 2000 minutes to 5000 minutes per month.
Although by no means the cheapest, Zen has been by far the best internet service company to deal with, and while they maintain or improve their standards I have no intention of changing.

I agree completely about Zen. They have supplied my broadband for nearly 3 years and I have had no problems whatsoever with their service. I have experienced fast download speeds despite my rural location, and have had no interruptions to service at any point. They provide instant, courteous and helpful support, from day one when setting up the router and again when I was setting up my iphone to sync as I wanted with Outlook. I cannot fault them; excellent service and good value for money.

Alan says:
1 February 2013

It’s not right at all that they put prices up mid contract. However, I”m glad my broadband contract was up because I was having a terrible time with Sky Broadband. Speeds were slow. dropping out and no amount of call outs seem to fix it – may be I was too far from the exchange, then I read something about Sky broadband customers suffering because they have taken on too many customers. Not good.

There was no Virgin Media in my postcode so I decide to try yoursuresave broadband. I called them up on 11th Jan and it was installed a couple of days ago. So far, everything is great. My son is overjoyed with his xbox connection.

Hi Alan, thanks for your comment. I just wanted to let you know that you earned our Comment of the Week this week. Congratulations!

John Hood says:
1 February 2013

I took Which’s advice and changed my ISP to Zen from BT 3 years ago. We live in the countryside and they managed to get my broadband speed up from 800Kbps to 2.5Mbps by knowing how to deal with BT Openreach. That being said, they can’t work miracles and I’ve just had to get them to re-book a 4th appointment with Openreach to come out to my house again after they failed to turn up for the 3 previous ones. Our connection is unreliable and we seem to have no ability to complain to Openreach, or hold them accountable for missed appointments. Any advice greatly received!

Richard says:
1 February 2013

I have BTinternet and live in rural Worcestershire and my broadbad speed is rubbish, often down to 0.3 mbps.

John Hood says:
1 February 2013

May be worth looking at Zen? I know it’s counter intuitive as they will provide broadband over the same infrastructure (cables) as BT, but it’s BT Openreach that need to be managed to improve your speeds and they seem better able to do this than BT Retail (who sell broadband to people like us).

Mark says:
1 February 2013

Our home connection moved from BT to Blueyonder & then to Virgin, who bought Blueyonder. So we became Virgin customers by default. I’ll give Virgin 9/10. But when the service does drop off, the score drops as well. Luckily the service is usually very relaible.

Hello, you have missed my biggest bug bear. I was on a contract for an “upto 8Meg” link, which worked very well.
I was then sold in 2009, for more money per month, an “upto 20Meg” link, which consistently provides a service of the previous “upto 8Meg” contract, inthat the IP profile is set by the provider as 8Meg, the maximum achievable is 21Megs and the actual download speed averages 7.5Megs.
There has been no service improvement and the provider, after 4 years of complaining, has not rectified the problem.
This is a blatent case of miss-selling, which even Ofcom cannot help with.

Kayj says:
1 February 2013

Very pleased with Plusnet!
Always helpful and prompt with enquiries or queries. Readily had a router replaced last year when concerned with compromised security. Not sure if its the cheapest but as far as I can see its worth the price. Don’t get complacent Plusnet and keep that UK call centre!

Bob Griffin says:
1 February 2013

After 10years with AOL I started a new deal at a great price.6months into the contract they put it up by £5 a month. When I rang to complain they were aweful. Offered me 3 months free then back to the new rate.i left to john lewis broadband what a difference you talk to real people whose first language is English. They keep you informed all the way. Problems are solved and the price seems fair. All in all wished I had moved here years ago. Would really recommend them its got everything you expect from a great company.

Ron Powell says:
1 February 2013

Currently still in negotiations with my new supplier talktalk. I had a really slow copper broadband connection via AOL and asked them what they could do e.g. fibre broadband. No can do for you but our sister company talktalk can – if you go to them in such a time we’ll waive our cancellation fee (locked-in until April’13) – they’re current offer included free fibre connection worth £30.00. To date
I’ve been charged a £55 cancellation fee by AOL -promised to refund but it might take us 10 days – and a fibre connection fee of £30.00 by talktalk – promised to refund but no sign yet. Then New Years Day the new fibre connection goes down due to poor installation (repair engineers verdict) and I’ve now got to chase extra charges with yet another sister company talkmobile for £12 of call charges to report the fault on talktalk’s 0870 customer service number via my mobile to people with poor English and what seemed even poorer IT and organisation skills (two engineers arrived, different days). customer service calls were more than 40 minutes long in total.

Sally says:
1 February 2013

Good luck with TalkTalk – sounds like you’re at the beginning the of the nightmare that I experienced. Head straight for the Chief Exec’s office if I were you – her name is Dido Harding, you can find her email on Google, otherwise you’ll be stuck with the Phillipines Call Centre and there’s no way to bypass their incredibly slow process.

My mum recommended utility warehouse for great value and service. They have great service and now supply all my utilities. Their broadband was stable at 6-7mb/s. However in December the speeds just dropped out and I was getting 0.5mb/s. I rung the tech support and the guys tried everything they could do remotely.it was during the festive period and they still managed to get me a new router to check whether it was an issue with the one I had.
The process of checking and diagnosis where the speeds were dropping took a few weeks due to the time it happened. The great thing is when my line went dead for a few days, I rung them up and they were freezing my line rental till it gets sorted. Eventually they managed to get an engineer out and all was sorted. The issue was at the exchange, flood damage. I have had great experience with them, and you know a company best on how they respond to problems. Great stuff.