/ 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,

Has to be utility Warehouse doesn’t it? Probably the best service of all the providers!

Peter Smith says:
6 February 2013

I use Post Office Broad band and home phone they have lost all my eamil contacts and could not care less and offer £5 for there c**k up what make its worse is that I am a Sub Post Master and they what to sell rubbis I am not and no one should buy this service because they do not know what costomer service is

Jim Clarke says:
6 February 2013

Mr. Smith, I cannot agree (or disagree) with your scathing comment, as I have never had any dealings with the broadband services provided by the Post Office, but I am very concerned that for someone in such an important position as a sub-postmaster, your use of English grammar leaves a lot to be desired.

Prof T. R. Wyatt says:
7 February 2013

We are long suffering customers of Talk Talk. We live in the countryside and have on several occasions had problems with poor external connections due to the phone line across the fields being damaged. Each time it has taken weeks to get the problem fixed. Talk Talk’s customer service is the worst I have ever experienced. It takes several hours of phone calls to slowly progress through the various levels in their hierarchy of support. They then insist on sending out one of their own (sub-contractor) engineers to check the wiring in our house (which is never the problem) because they want at all cost to avoid having to pay BT to investigate and solve the real problem (which is the external phone line). They clearly have a company policy to exploit to the full the fact that phone line problems are often intermittent and linked to weather in avoiding the need to solve problems. The english language skills of their call centre staff are usually very poor. In the most recent case, we had almost no internet for several weeks during the very wet weather over Christmas-New Year 2012-13. After eventually going through all the steps they finally agreed to send out a BT engineer. When one didn’t arrive we spent several hours more on the phone to their customer service, being passed from one department to another, before eventually extracting from a “manager” that because there had been no interruption to our Broadband service for a few days (the weather had been good!) they had cancelled the call to BT (without telling us). Unfortunately, most high performance broadband companies will not provide a service so far out into the countryside (we are 7 miles from the nearest exchange). Otherwise I’d switch.

Peter Smith says:
8 February 2013

sorry about that but I do have promble with my spelling and gammar but i can speak ok in fact I went the cahir my lodge so writing and spesking are tow diifant this thing please Richard Branson has got same promble I tend what I thing I done not what I have

Peter, Poole says:
24 February 2013


Debbie W says:
10 February 2013

The govt sponsored superfastbroadband project will ignore 10% of properties with currently less than 2mb service. Some of us limp along at 0.7mb which drops connections. Because BT have said which areas they will and won’t upgrade the project appears to have no influence with BT to force upgrades. Moving providers has no effect, BT open reach control the infrastructure. So more millions wasted on a project that should focus on the worst service areas as highest priority, but will claim success when they get an 8mb service upgraded to 24mb. Is this a campaign which could lend some focus to?

I chose Zen after reading a review in Which Magazine about 7 years ago, and have never had any regrets. They are outstanding.

Brenda Geering says:
14 February 2013

My internet is with Eclipse, I have been with them over 10 years, and never had a single problem with them, and a very good monthly deal . I can not fault them at all.

Dear sirs, I have been a customer of Virgin Media for over six years About seven months ago the service became very patchy to the least and I tried to move away from the this company. When you ring them you have to choose one of the 5 options Then again one of the 4 subsequent menus, then most possibly again , The system is so complicated you are bound to make a mistake. If you do get somebody to talk you are put on hold and after about half an hour the phone cuts off. There are loads of menus for paying the bills but none for cancellation.I did however got connected on 4th of December last year and after a lot of interrogation I was told I have to give 30 days notice so the so a final bill will come after 2nd January 2013. Nothing happened so I rang again and I was sent bill for nearly £200 instead of £ 60. covering a period up to 10th March 2013. Reason given is the call I made in December did not reach the proper authorities.If you try the website it is even worse. The details on the invoice have been removed with the word “package” When asked for the details I have been sent unintelligible words and figures. I am frustrated. Any suggestions

I have had the Talk Talk broadband and phone package for several years (also had it when it was still Tiscali) and never had any problems. Even when I had a fault on the line (which wasn’t Talk Talk’s failing) they arranged for an engineer to come and sort out the problem. I am amazed by the number of people citing various problems. I guess I have just been lucky not to have experienced any.

KK says:
7 May 2013

Here’s one. After two years with Virgin Media, I found out that the latest problems we have had with their landline service is because they changed our phone number without either consulting or informing us! Furthermore, they refuse to change it back.

How did I find out? An increasing number of people were emailing me or calling my mobile saying that our home number was out of service. And, then, when I was in the hospital, I found I couldn’t complete a call home.

So why have they done this? They wanted to give the number to a business.

I have been an AOL customer since 2002.The sevice has been sufficient for a bog standard email and browser user like me and I think is cheaper than most of the rproviders’.
I hate the weekly mail shots from BT and Virgin which offer a “beats all” price until you read the small print about” for a restricted few months” after which the prices rise astronomically for the unwary(there are plenty!)
Given that Warner(AOL)were in the film industry what a shame they don’t offer TV
My stand against Murdoch and the greedy like cntinues so FreeSat is the substitute for me.
So for now I get all nat’l and local calls 24/7 free and use SAY NO TO 0870 to overcome the premium numbers Mobile and intrnational numbers(SKYPE use free) are extra but I use them for emergencies only.There is another local charge hub no. through which can tel OZ AT LOCAL RATES!
BT is doing its best to squeeze THE PIPS ON LANDLINE RENTAL including some dubious add on charges…..Government need to squeeze them. Incidentally is BT TV really free.Surely one pays for that service in the other BT charges ;so shouldn’t the latter be at a reduced charge*which can be taken separately” with an add on cost for TV.THAT IS TRUE TRANSPARENCY I can say that as a BT shareholder!
BT is like those cruise and up market holiday packages said to be 24/7 “all in” but can you eat and drink 24/7….well perhaps under 25s and transatlantics and a few EC people can so you pay for them !! Think about it.

talk talk – on 23 august my landline went dead. i immediately went onto their site to report the fault. in order to report the fault you first have to run a line test from their site, which I attempted to do for several days, and in addition tried and failed to get through to someone to report the fault. i have also sent several letters about the fault, and a request for a refund for the period paid for in advance when there was no service on the line; my online bills reflect the fact that that no calls have been made since 23.08.13. i have not received a direct reply to any of my letters, TT have not contacted me about the fault nor have they offered to test the line. i did finally get through on the ‘cancel your account’ line and they confirm that the line has now officially been terminated but they continue to send demands for payment and most recently a final notice letter from their legal department. i still have no line.

It’s time to go straight to the top! I had a nightmare ride with TalkTalk about a year ago and found myself within their system, occasionally being “escalated” to the next level of complaint. I too had a letter from their legal department about a bill for a BT Engineer for a fault which turned out to be in the box down my street, not in my home as TalkTalk kept insisting. It turned out they’d sent the “wrong type” of engineer so instead of sending a Data Engineer they’d sent a first level engineer. To cut a long story short I ended being called from the CEO’s office in Glasgow and within 30 seconds of speaking to them they instantly cancelled the charge. My advice is to bypass the rest of their lumbering complaints system and get to the top. good luck!

amazing thank you so much. you do begin to feel as though the tide is completely against you. they ‘lost’ my fax line a year ago and i just gave up. the telephone though line is a bridge too far.

What I can’t understand is why broadband and phone companies are not required to disclose their complaint volumes (in a similar way that financial services companies are required to). Ofcom are, as usual, basically useless and only publish very limited data for 4 of the suppliers on a quarterly basis. Wouldn’t surprise me if some get 3,000 complaints per quarter for every 1,000 customers, but of course we’ll never be able to find out that…

zoe says:
10 March 2015

Hi i had prommables with sky+hd broadband and the company is a rip off but must be the same with all broadband company’s i said to my parter not to have it that it was going to be nothink but stress and trouble and i was right but i had the sky bill goo out of my direct debt and it was only 30 pound to start with but i started having issues with sky and i noticed the bill was going up when i went to my bank to get a mini stantment out it went up too £60 and i phoned them up and i whanted them to explain why and what they was doing taking more money then they should when it was my bank and my directdebt other bills went out off aswell and without telling me first i though it was wrong for a company like sky to be doing somthink like this they was making all the excuses up they could think of and they was trying rip me off but it as not worked i got the bill back down i was paying £30 again but then a few mouths later we where having trouble with the landline. and internet connection some body had to come out and fix a lose connection but my parter had sky moves and they was charging us for having a extra package we had sky for 1year 2mouths so far and the concract ended in feb this year i glade it because it not going out of my direct debt no more because again they keep wanting more money before the next due bill date and i could of had my bank closed because i was charged for to overdrafes trust me not even worth the time stress or hassal .. …..