/ Technology

What do you think of your mobile provider?

Mobile phones

Terrible customer service. Poor signal. Price hikes. Rubbish value for money or incentives. What really irks you when it comes to your mobile network provider?

In our latest mobile satisfaction survey, we invited over 4,000 members of the public to tell us about their experiences with their mobile phone providers. We also asked them to tell us why they picked their current provider, and over 50% of people told us the decision came down to cost.

While cost is important, we know that it’s not the only consideration. For some, the customer service offered by their provider may be so bad that they simply can’t put up with it anymore. Those in certain areas will often be limited to certain networks, due to poor mobile coverage or 4G availability. Others have experienced price hikes mid-contract, or frustrating billing issues.

Customer service

EE and Vodafone are just two of the mobile networks that have struggled with billing their customers correctly.

In October 2016 Ofcom fined Vodafone a whopping £4.6m fine as a result of incorrect billing and poor handling of customer complaints. In January 2017, EE was fined £2.7m for overcharging tens of thousands of customers.

Following Ofcom’s fine, we asked you here on Which? Conversation whether you’d experienced a billing issue with Vodafone.

Many of you explained your billing problems with Vodafone. One commenter, Sharon, told us she was ‘fed up to the back teeth’ of her dealings with Vodafone and that the issues had affected her credit rating, something that several people also reported.

Others were frustrated by how difficult it was to contact the company, and were considering leaving the provider. Graeme stated:

‘I have been with Vodafone for many years but their customer service has plummeted in the last few years. What is frustrating is the time it has taken to resolve issues. I have often been passed round various departments before eventually getting cut off completely. It usually takes several phone calls to resolve issues and get credits put on my account. When I renew next year I will be shopping around!’

For David Young it was a painful process to claim back money incorrectly taken from his account, David told us:

‘Vodafone incorrectly took £245.22 from my bank. I contacted them, they agreed they were wrong, but it took them over 7 months to return my money. It took a lot of phone calls and emails for them to return my money with no real apology or any compensation.’

However, not everyone is unhappy with their service from Vodafone, Roland Beaney stated:

‘My first phone (analogue) was on Vodafone and I’ve always had excellent service and now their 4G service seems to be the best.’

Over to you

So, what makes a good or bad mobile service provider? Do you feel positive about the service you’ve received? Aside from billing problems, what are your biggest issues with your mobile phone provider? What would make you look around for a new mobile network provider?

Comments
Member

I’m not a typical customer, but with Vodafone pay-as-you-go, “they” can’t actually do me much damage. They do their best to hook me into a contract and I have to wipe their texts from the phone quite often. I am getting a better signal now than I was six months ago, when, frustratingly, it came and went at random. I don’t make enough phone calls to worry about the cost of them and, at around fifteen pence per text, I send these when I need to. Internet is wildly expensive when not using WiFi and router. Last check it was £2 for 50 mbs. No doubt a contract would be cheaper if I needed to use the internet away from a WiFi source. Vodafone supplied me with a new top up card when my old one was disintegrating and the shop assistant was helpful. My other dealings have been with Car-Phone Warehouse, so I have never had to contact Vodafone to complain about anything. Coverage is important for me and when I first used Vodafone they were the best. Things have changed, but I can’t be bothered to get a new phone, or number. I wouldn’t hesitate to move companies if I thought It was an advantage to do so.

Member

I’m on PAYG with Tesco, thus am clearly not a heavy user. I have had no contact so far other than changing tariffs from standard to Lite a few years ago and making the occasional automatic £10 top up over the phone. So I can’t comment from experience on the “performance” of mobile operators as those on contracts can. However, what concerns me a little about these sorts of “debates” is the use a very few individual’s statements to seemingly make a case – ‘fed up to the back teeth’, “a painful process to claim back money “, “their customer service has plummeted in the last few years”.

I am not doubting the veracity of their experiences, not condoning overcharging or billing issues, but with a huge number of customers I would like to see more than just these cases, and to see just how performance varies across all the operators. In other words, some proper performance statistics to help us judge one provider against another.

Member

My SIM-only contract with Vodafone was coming to an end and someone phoned me several weeks beforehand to offer me a contract with a new phone and a variety of tariffs and add-ons. I explained that my phone was not quite three years old and working fine, and I was also happy with my present tariff. He said I could just continue on the tariff but I said I would look to see what was available and call back, which I did two days before the contract expired. When I called to say that I wanted to stay on the same tariff I was told that this would not be possible, but after a couple of periods on hold I was offered what was effectively the same service for a monthly additional cost of 10p. Had I acted sooner I might have avoided the price rise.

I realise that I did not ask for no marketing or market research. From past experience with Vodafone and other companies it is essential to do this when renewing a contract. 🙁

Last year I was very grateful to Vodafone for giving me a couple of months unlimited data at the start of the contract. That was extremely useful because I did not have to worry about data use for tethering when I was waiting for fibre broadband to be installed.

I visit rural places where Vodafone does not work but I’m usually with someone with a phone on another network, and they can use my phone when they have no signal.

Please will Which? push for the mobile network operators to share networks, so that we can all benefit from better network coverage. This has been done for years for emergency calls.

Member

My main phone is on O2, via a SIM only contract. I’m happy with my package. It gives good service for a medium price and allows me to tether a PC if a need to do that.

For the rest of my family, I use giffgaff PAYG – this seems to be very good value for money and prevents any expected bills. Also, when out and about, it now seems to give quite good mobile internet access for things like Google maps, navigation and traffic data.

Member
Susan says:
19 April 2017

I have giffgaff which works fine and is very good value. But it would be really nice to to have a signal from any provider at my house – the nearest is about 5 miles away. I think it’s time the government did something about this. Just leaving it to commercial considerations doesn’t work and is really bad for local businesses.

Member

I use a Three on PAYG .

Their Website and Coverage are average at best, but their 321 SIM really is an extremely good deal.
Three pence a minute for calls to all mobiles or fixed lines, twopence for a text, and a penny per megabyte for data. On a top-up that credit does not expire, and overseas calls to many listed Countries at the same rate.

However, things that seem too good to be true usually are, and the problem here is that they charge much higher rates for many ordinary numbers that you would not expect, to be premium, often at rates well over 60p per minute.
For this reason, you cannot safely top-up by more than £10 at a time, so that if you are using such a number unknowingly, the most that you can loose is this sum. Costly, inconvenient and annoying.

This is clearly a way to covertly increase revenue, as Three does not provide a convenient complete Listing of all tariffs for these extra cost numbers On-line, or from their Shops, which one could keep on the phone for reference before dialling.

It is a depressing sign of the times, that a multitude of such sharp practices are employed by many providers of services of all kinds.

Member

I use a Three on PAYG .

Their Website and Coverage are average at best, but their 321 SIM really is an extremely good deal.
Three pence a minute for calls to all mobiles or fixed lines, twopence for a text, and a penny per megabyte for data. On a top-up that credit does not expire, and overseas calls to many listed Countries at the same rate.

However, things that seem too good to be true usually are, and the problem here is that they charge much higher rates for many ordinary numbers that you would not expect, to be premium, often at rates well over 60p per minute.
For this reason, you cannot safely top-up by more than £10 at a time, so that if you are using such a number unknowingly, the most that you can loose is this sum. Costly, inconvenient and annoying.

This is clearly a way to covertly increase revenue, as Three does not provide a convenient complete Listing of all tariffs for these extra cost numbers On-line, or from their Shops, which one could keep on the phone for reference before dialling.

It is a depressing sign of the times, that a multitude of such sharp practices are employed by many providers of services of all kinds.

Smike

Member
Alan says:
19 April 2017

Three is good

Member
Andy Vargesson says:
19 April 2017

I’m with Plusnet and have been for many years, as an oap I do find that the longer you’ve been with your supplier the less your thought of, take new deals for instance, very good for new customers but what about existing loyal customers !!!!, no communication about cheaper deals, it’s all one way, take take, we’ll do you proud, come-on Plusnet play fair, no chance……….

Member
Ian Metcalfe says:
26 April 2017

I live in the Yorkshire Dales and only Orange/EE provide coverage all-be-it 2G. I spend quite a lot of time abroad so PAYG suits me fine as I don’t want to pay for airtime/ data I cannot use, so buy data when I need it. The web site is worse that useless, displaying inaccurate information, and the last 2 times I used failed to provide the data I was buying but debited my account. I had to ring up and speak to a call handler with limited English. They were apologetic and doubled my data to 1G – which doesn’t really amount to anything as the connection speeds are so poor. They always try to get me to migrate to EE 4G which has a less favorable plan for my needs. The website does not let you top up with the new 16 digit voucher and no longer tells you how much data you have left. I am sick and fed up with Orange but have no choice.

Member

Ian , you will have to come to a decision in the near future . 2G+3G are to be phased out by -2020. O2/EE/Three/Vodaphone /etc are now diverting their attention to improving better signals for the newer types like- 4G/ and 5G which will be rolled out at the same time . 4G should be accessible to 99 % of the population by the end of the year. It is expected that when 4G is complete operators will pull the plug on legacy services , just like Microsoft does on Windows – XP/ Vista /Win 7 /etc. Bottom line ? its not going to get better for 2G .

Member
Ben Miller says:
1 May 2017

I haven’t heard anything about 2/3G being phased out. Where did you read this? I guess everyone will have to have a smartphone then seeing as basic phones are 2G only?

Member

Hello Ben , this isn’t something I made up in my head on the spur of a moment its all over the web. One website is uSwitch.com : https://www.uswitch.com/broadband/news/2015/04/2g_and_3g_to_be_phased_out_by_2020/ or CABLE.co.uk : https://www.cable.co.uk/news/mobile-providers-will-switch-off-2g-and-3g-networks-by-2020-analyst-700000624/ many more including the worlds second biggest telecommunications company Verizon , I have a long list with some very technical detail , if you are interested Ben, there again politics in the UK might come into effect , can you imagine the hue+cry in the rural areas ?