/ 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?

Comments
Pcologist says:
1 February 2013

I am with BT on infinity, I am quite happy with the service which really is very good. I have had quite a few of so called competitors of BT and have found them all to be very erratic in their broadband supply, as a scientist I monitor the speed several times a day and you will have to go a long way beat the reliability of the constant speed that BT provide.
It is important to be aware that BT is also in a position that they cover all broadband phases from within their group: Construction, Distribution, supply, and sales and service. So they are never in a position where they are dependent on a third party to solve a problem.
I know that BT takes a bit of flak about their support engineers from the Indian continent but I have found that after an initial frustration that they are always very polite and courteous and are quite knowledgeable.
You have to appreciate that 9 times out of 10 the customer who is requiring assistance has no idea what they are doing or talking about, and their frustration and anger is usually blamed on the tech help service, and the reality is that 8 times out of 10 THEY have caused the defect themselves!
The multiple suppliers are to a certain extent using a too smaller supply for a too larger customer base thus the great swings in speed and supply.
But as said before I have found BT to be a very good choice and over the last 6 years they have always strived to keep my service as required. But they are not the cheapest.

Not many complaints here about Talk Talk. Their tech service is very good.
However, I did have an issue with them about their financial management side.
I paid £114 for a saving on landline costs via their website. Somehow the payment went in as a credit to my broadband costs. They would not transfer the money across their accounts. They made me feel embarrassed as I am fairly computer literate.
I sent in a second payment and that also went haywire until I contacted them yet again.
Are you reading this Talk Talk. It is nearly time to renew my contract and I would like to hear from you soon.

I am with Eclipse Internet and have been since I first got broadband about 6 years ago. I’ve never had any major issues with them. They have always been helpful on the phone if I’ve had a problem and wasn’t sure why. Down time has been rare and length minimal, never more than an hour or two. I have now moved my phone service to Eclipse and have had zero problems in 3 months. Overall I am very happy with their service.

Bob smith says:
1 February 2013

I recently lost my broadband connection and contacted my provider Talk Talk, after 55mins on the phone I was advised that. An engineer would have to visit, this I agreed and if it was my fault would be charged, this I also agreed to. The bombshell was that it would be ten weeks before an engineer was available. I phoned John Lewis and signed up for them to be my provider the same day, the main attraction was that they use UK call centres .So far the service has been excellent and knowing John Lewis I believe this will continue.
Bob smith

Sally says:
1 February 2013

I switched Broadband and Phone from TalkTalk to Utility Warehouse just under a year ago and it was the best move I have ever made. I had awful broadband speeds from TalkTalk, the connection kept dropping and they sent out 2 BT Engineers (as I discovered TalkTalk has its equipment on the BT exchange) and TalkTalk kept insisting that the problem was inside my flat. No it wasn’t – my equipment worked perfectly well when I tried it elsewhere. To cut a long story short when I switched to Utility Warehouse the problem recurred, however this time I had the most patient incredible people who bent over backwards to sort it out. (they also have their equipment on the BT exchange) It turned out TalkTalk had sent the wrong ‘type’ of engineer – not a broadband engineer but a phone engineer! Utility Warehouse kept phoning me back (and what a delight that that have a UK call centre with lovely people in it), gave me updates, told me what was going on and they sorted it completely – the problem lay in one of those green boxes down the street. I am now a very happy bunny – I think Utility Warehouse are wonderful. TalkTalk was a disgrace especially when they tried to charge me a couple of hundred pounds for the orginal wasted BT engineer visits. I was fed up not being able to speak to UK based call centre people who were totally unable to action anything. Eventually the TalkTalk Chief Exec’s office agreed to drop their unreasonable charges after 3 months and hours spent trying to speak to someone in the UK. It was one of the most difficult challenges I’ve ever had with any company ever.

Cheryl Coulby says:
1 February 2013

When we moved house BT were rubbish. Took 6 weeks to turn on the already installed phone line. Then another week to get broadband working, then another couple of days to get BT Vision up and running. I was so disspointed about the amount of time I spent to different departments at BT I started Tweets to the MD Warren Buckley Customer Service @wazzer_BT and have got am upgrade box for Uview free. Give it a go!

George says:
1 February 2013

I want to endorse everything said above about Zen and Utility Warehouse. I moved to Zen after a horrendous experience with Homecall/Pipex, willing to pay almost anything for proper service. And Zen was brilliant, sorting out all sorts of problems and managing Openreach. Most impressively, when I asked about an advertised upgrade to service, I got the honest and accurate advice that technically it would not be to my advantage (too far from the exchange).
After several years I reluctantly moved to Utility Warehouse to save some cost, because they too have a good reputation for service. I have not been disappointed, they are great.
Conversely, all contact with BT in recent years on a variety of subjects has usefully reminded me why I no longer use them. Good service is almost beyond price.

Derek says:
1 February 2013

When I have needed to speak to Talk Talk with any type of complaint, I have found the best way to wade through their call centres is to state that “I must talk to someone who is empowered to agree compensation” Stand your ground and you’ll be put through to a supervisor who is much more likely to be able to understand and deal with your problem. I always ask for some compensation – not that I need the money but I think it helps focus T-T’s mind if their poor service is costing them loads of money by way of compensation. That way they might be encouraged to improve. Incidentally, this approach works with all other call centre organisations.

I have been with BT Internet since it started with dial -up in 19997 I find their Broadband fine for my use although being on the end of a long rural line I only get about 4 – 5Bit/Sec. When I do get the occasional fault I too find heir Indian helpdesk irritating although they mean well and they usually fix the problem. Had a fault with the Home Hub this week and they sent me a new, improved one the next day!

I am paying BT for broadband but still have no idea what it is. Nothing has changed in my use of internet, televosion or anyhting else. What the devil is it? What difference am I supposed to see?

pat hughes says:
1 February 2013

On the 24/12/12 I took out an 18month contract with Carphone Warehouse Talk Talk mobile a Galaxy Ace with 200 mins calls 5000 texts and 250 whatever they are kigobytes for my Brother who had just come out of hospital and needed to be in contact 24 hrs a day. Unfortunately what we didnt realise was that they bill you 1st Month so we were charged a months money for just a week. Not knowing how to use the phone as we are of the age you need an instruction book on the 18th Jan the bill was £62. so nearly £90 for 25 days. So beware unless you know what you are doing make sure you dont go mad when you first get your phone. If he had the use of the internet to explain how things worked it may have saved us alot of money.

Doug says:
1 February 2013

I am with BT and find their customer services excellent. If you follow their guidelines your querys are answered swiftly, correctly and politely. I had problems with the speed of my BT Infinity (I live in a rural spot) and by connecting to the router by Ethernet (Wired Connection) as against Wi-Fi. I was able to increase Down speed from 18mps to 60mps and up speed from 8mps to 16mps. This is BT Infinity unlimited.Also the speeds have totally stabalised.I dont think any provider can improve on that. For me well done BT you deserve a pat on the back. It seems to me alot of the gripes are down to not following the recommendations or unable to understand the instructions and frustration.

I’ve been with AOL since 2001 and have found them excellent in their service and attempts to improve their customers lot.
I and they must be frustrated by BT who I understand are blocking AOL attempts to include the line rental in the AOL package.
This appears to me TO be restraint of trade,blocked competition and locking unwilling customers into the BT net;the latter even charge me £6 for not ringing BT numbers x times in a billing period. What is the OFT doing. Answer ZILCH

Doug says:
1 February 2013

Pleased to hear another positive. Tell me what speeds do you attain with AOL?

Most of my interest is in downloading and AOL shows a speed of just under seven ;Virgin are at least 3 times faster I understand but BT and rest are reported as being slower than AOL……FOR THIS AREA which is BN.

Sally says:
1 February 2013

I have signed up with plusnet for phone and broadband with up to 60mbites and have been very pleased with them, particularly when just setting up. They were very helpful on the phone and have no problems with the router so far- I have been signed up for 11 months.

JULIAN SYMMS says:
2 February 2013

I have been with TalkTalk for over eight years and it is true to say there have been a few problems but they have always been resolved in a reasonable time. I believe it is also very good value for money £29.00/month unlimited broadband, all landline 24hrs free, calls to America (fixed + mobile) free +many other countries, average speed 16Mbps, free router, free call waiting, free anti virus.
Am I lucky with my experience of TalkTalk or are there people that expect the earth for little cost.

Late last year we briefly had Tesco Broadband and found it to be absolute rubbish, to say the least. The only time we could surf online without being cut off or interrupted was the wee hours of the morning; during the daytime the service was on and off and in the evening and during the weekend the broadband service was hardly accessible. Most probably their network service was over-subscribed and/or their network capacity was apparently too limited – the result: as soon as someone near the local exchange starts heavy downloads or TV/film streaming or online gaming, then other subscribers can hardly use the broadband! We complained again and again to Tesco Broadband but all they could do was their repeated apologies and nothing else. No technical solution was proposed. We have been using the Internet for over 25 years now but we have never had such a nightmarish experience with other ISPs. In just a couple of weeks into our contract with Tesco Broadband we decided to get out and told them this would be our first and LAST broadband contract with them.

Late last year we briefly had Tesco Broadband and found it to be absolute rubbish, to say the least. The only time we could surf online without being cut off or interrupted was the wee hours of the morning; during the daytime the service was on and off and in the evening and during the weekend the broadband service was hardly accessible. Most probably their network service was over-subscribed and/or their network capacity was apparently too limited – the result: as soon as someone near the local exchange starts heavy downloads or TV/film streaming or online gaming, then other subscribers can hardly use the broadband! We complainted again and again to Tesco Broadband but all they could do was their repeated apologies and nothing else. No technical solution was proposed. We have been using the Internet for over 25 years now but we have never had such a nightmarish experience with other ISPs. In just a couple of weeks into our contract with Tesco Broadband we decided to get out and told them this would be our first and LAST broadband contract with them.

I am with Virgin, previously Diamond Cable; ntlworld…. Very pleased with service after about 10 years (from Diamond Cable days). A bit frustrating getting into contact with Virgin, especially using e-mail recently, ‘phone service keeps you hanging-on tooooo looong, but usually queries answered and sorted pretty quickly. I recently, (28th Jan 2013) setup the Virgin SuperHub inplace of the Modem and Router I previously used and can tell the difference between before and after. This more noticable on my laptop, once it gets ‘upto speed’ it is a lot quicker than before.
Maybe I am the lucky one or maybe not?

Ticker John says:
2 February 2013

By and large,I’m reasonably happy with Virgin phone ,Broad band,and TV.
I have found it necessary to re adjust the TV and phone ” menu”, to suit my requirements and thereby reducing the price.
Gradually realising that although I would claim to be technically aware , I hadn’t examined the nity -gritty properly , when I put in the initial order in for the Virgin .
JBH

David Butcher says:
2 February 2013

Not at all surprised to see Orange rated as one of the two worst providers.

They were once a great brand but in recent times (and especially since the takeover by the dreadful EE) they have totally lost the plot.

Their broadband call centre is halfway round the world and when I’ve called I’ve been left sensing that I know more about the problem than they do! Their mobile call centre can leave you on hold for ages (I once had a recorded message telling me I’d be dealt with in two hours!). Their email system hasn’t worked in months.

I’ve been with them from the earliest days of Orange but am in the process of leaving. Life is too short to deal with the frustrations they cause.

David