/ Technology

What’s your message for Ofcom’s review?

Man angry on mobile

Ofcom is to review the UK’s digital communications markets. With three quarters of people on the wrong mobile contract and nearly half unhappy with their broadband speed, it’s time for change.

Ofcom has today announced an overarching review of the UK’s digital communications markets. That’s the broadband, mobile and landline markets to you and me, all of which are essential services with low levels of trust and satisfaction. For example, you may remember me sharing the fact that even the banks are trusted more than mobile providers. It’s clearly the right time for a review.

It’s been over 10 years since Ofcom’s last review – and a lot has changed in that time. The iPhone hadn’t been announced, we weren’t using Twitter and tablets had more to do with medication than computing.

The telecoms market is clearly changing at a rapid pace, so it’s right for Ofcom to review whether it’s working for consumers. This is especially the case now that there are high-profile mergers on the cards, which could lead to less competition.

Problems in the mobile and broadband markets

We’ve long been campaigning to improve the telecoms market, from mid-contract price hikes, poor broadband services and unfair charges to unlock your mobile phone.

But these issues are just the tip of the iceberg. Our research this year found that three quarters of people are on the wrong mobile contract for their usage, resulting in a collective over-payment of £5.42bn every single year.

And then we come to broadband speed advertising – eight in 10 people don’t know that only 10% of customers need to achieve the speeds that their broadband provider advertises. Since speed is the second most important factor when people are picking a broadband provider, how could they ever make an accurate decision when the advertising rules are stacked against them.

A better deal for consumers

So it’s definitely the right time for Ofcom to dig into the depths of these essential markets. The regulator now needs to set out how it will deliver a better deal for you and me.

Now’s your chance to send a message to Ofcom. If you could name up to three things that wind you up about your phone or broadband service, what would they be?


I like many who are with Virgin Media were pleased to receive news from them that the broadband service to my house is going up to 50 Mb and its going to be done at no cost to me “Its Free” they said. Well you have guessed it a month or so later my broadband speed is supposed to have gone up to 50Mb and the cost of provision has also gone up nearly £5 per month. So, I checked the broadband speed (using the Which broadband speed check service at various times of the day over two weeks, the broadband speed is and was nowhere near 50 Mb that I am now paying £5 extra for.
Is this fraud? Or am I just a paying customer who accepts that it is ok for multi national companies to charge extra for a service that is not delivered. Why are these type of providers not just delivering what they say is going to be delivered and the customer get what they are paying for?

I very rarely criticise Which, but don’t trust the results of the Which broadband speed tester. I have compared it against several other speed testers on many days at various times of the day, and it consistently gives a false result that is around 10% to 20% of the speed indicated by other speed testers. I have reported this to Which, but its speed tester is operated by a third party who has done nothing yet to fix this.

I find that the most reliable speed tester is speedtest.net, specifically the Vorboss server in London or the Gigaclear server in Slough.

Hi NFH, I’m sorry to hear that you find our broadband speed test unreliable, however, we’re very confident in the performance of it.

There are so many fluctuations, not just from morning to afternoon, but within the minute, that it won’t be a surprise if you see quite different results at any time. I just tried through our site and another and I experienced the opposite – matching upload speeds but wildly different download speeds.

If anyone is going to use the tool on speedtest.net, please bear in mind the other banners/adverts on their website that could be harmful to your computer. The speed test itself is fine to use.

Hi Andrew. I’m not talking about fluctuations but about a consistently large mismatch between Which’s speed tester and other speed testers. For example, Which’s speed tester just gave me a result of 71.62Mbps downstream and 217.09Mbps upstream. Speedtest.net immediately afterwards gave me a result of 814.44Mbps downstream and 895.07Mbps upstream.

Such a huge difference cannot be explained by fluctuations, because:
1. The difference is consistently large.
2. Which’s speed tester shows a result that is a fraction of the true speed, not a small variation.

It is also relevant that Which’s speed tester shows a ping of 64ms (enough time to get to New York), whereas speedtest.net shows only 1ms or 2ms.

Kenneth johns says:
13 March 2015

These companies care nothing fo the end user…they are in it for the profit alone !!!…BTW, have you noticed the “font sizes” used in BT email……normal…(whatever size that is) big !!!….bigger !!! How much bigger than what ?…biggest !!! Huge !!!…….My God, how big is biggest, and bigger that what ???……have they not heard of official font sizes ???….10 point 24 point…etc ?………and let us have REAL font sizes, so that we know how “BIG” our email type will be at the receivers end !!!…..

[This comment has been slightly tweaked to align with our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods]

My comment is nothing because nothing will be done what ever they find out

I would be willing to pay extra rental every month and possibly for a premium too which utilized UK based Call Centres.

I do appreciate that our dear Guardian reading liberal elite will resort to the pinnacle of their intellects by shouting racist, as has happened on BBC Radio 4 but conduct any survey regarding customer satisfaction and one can soon discover that such so-called “out sourcing” has more to do with fat dividends for the CEOs and directors rather than with any interest in their customers.

Why do we need call centres at all? My mobile service is with giffgaff and everything is done online. It saves so much time and avoids hanging on the phone for hours, just to sort out simple problems.

I looked at giffgaff last year. My top priority was tethering and I wanted to phone to discuss the options. When I could not find a phone number I phoned up another service provider and decided that this offered the best bet. Then I phoned Vodafone to ask for my PAC code in order to switch provider. They offered me a half-price contract for a year and put it in writing that they would not increase the monthly payment.

Phoning is a very efficient way of discussing possibilities, whereas email is a good way of getting important information in writing. I’m the customer and if anyone wants my custom they will have to fit in with how I want to communicate. If a company keeps me waiting on the phone, they may well lose my custom.

If you post a non-account-specific question in giffgaff’s forums, you will get a reply within seconds. It is much faster than a phone call. If you had done this, then your question about tethering would have been answered immediately.

Obviously my written communication was not clear. I want a phone number that is answered promptly. Not a forum, not Twitter and not Facebook. You won’t change my mind. 🙂

Judith De Witt says:
14 March 2015

Thanks. I found that useful.
In general, I prefer phoning, too, but some mobile phone companies keep you waiting an unconscionable time and there is no sanction available if you are under contract or want to change provider.
On the other hand, I dislike the fact that, with T-Mobile/EE anyway, there is no ‘paper trail’ the customer can see. If the agent didn’t record your conversation, you have nothing to back you up.

Duncan McClymont says:
15 March 2015

Plus net, budget provider
Zen, premium provider

Both UK call centres and proper support

I’m with you – have no plans to join FaceBook and have primarily used Twitter only when that’s apparently the only option (have asked for e-mail address or other info).

Susan Toner says:
13 March 2015

Using a mobile phone as a means of communication rather than a fashion accessory has its advantages. I don’t want a camera or feel the need to play games or surf the web at all times. So buy a reliable basic phone and pay as you go – problem solved. Have done this for years and guess what I don’t have any issues. I change companies for better deals as and when I need to. I have a landline which is always available when at home so use the mobile when out and about. No issues

mike williams says:
13 March 2015

BT receive huge subsidies from the tax-payer ( Gov and Local Gov). All this does is boost BT’s profit and hence their share value. If BT cannot provide a service fit for the modern era without these subsidies, they should be re-nationalized without compensation.

Debbie says:
13 March 2015

Actually, my biggest gripe with them all (apart from the fact that we have very poor mobile coverage and expensive and poor broadband around here) is the cost of making calls TO a mobile from a landline, which is disgustingly over-greedy!

Ian says:
18 March 2015

Mobile Termination Rates are currently around 0.8p per minute having reduced from around 30p per minute over the last twenty years or so.

You can place the blame for the high cost of calling mobile numbers solely on your landline provider.

If most or all landline providers are making high charges for calls to mobiles, presumably Ofcom, as regulator, has let us down.

Ian says:
18 March 2015

In the final year of this coming three year period, MTRs will be slightly lower than the current termination rates for calls to 03 numbers.

There will then be no excuse for not offering inclusive calls to mobile numbers from landlines.

While 8p a minute seems a lot (I think that’s probably average from a landline, but depends on your telecom firm), it’s about half the old price for a few years ago. It’s still a lot less than the silly PAYG fee for calling from some mobiles (I consider 30p or 35p a minute excessive, if one used a PAYG from Orange, say) and there are some options such as the Three network 3p/2p/1p tariff on PAYG (no monthly top-up required, 3p a minute to landlines and mobiles, 2p per SMS text, and 1p per MB of data) whichwould appear the best value for infrequent use. For frequent use and heavy mobile minutes or texts, then a PAYG “bundle” each month or a SIM-only deal contract may be worthwhile.

I think there’s a lot of flexibility these days, compared with the past, and the only costly calls I can think of are 08xx chargeable calls, 09 (premium rate) and 0800/0500 from a mobile (at least until the Summer when they should become free to call).

It has taken years for many mobile networks to break even, and whatever the mobile network charges a landline service, the landline provider will add their own level of profit on.

Using 1899.com, calls to 01 or 02 numbers from my landline are just 6p (5p+VAT), and 0p per minute, whether the call is 1 or 1000 minutes (have not gone past about 300 minutes, helping my sister with her computer some time ago, and we took breaks for snacks, drinks, etc).

Since 1899.com can offer calls at 0p per minute, would you suggest all other should ? Simple fact is that when there is competition, the amount one pays depends on the firm one uses. If all mobile networks charged exactly the same, there would be some accusations of price fixing (and to be fair, there are some different rates depending on network, as well as time of day, etc).

8p is a lot less than it was (I must have seen 8p recently, but in my case would use minutes from my ‘unlimited minutes’ mobile contract with The People’s Operator), and Ofcom cannot force firms to charge below what they are being charged (by the mobile networks) so it’s a bit of competition and a lot of market forces – people will move if they can find better deals.

There isn’t much in the market by the way of dedication, whether it be the sale of goods or services, the main item to-day appears to be PROFIT. If I need an item (an article or a service), I shop around and many times draw a blank, so I end up with zero. I find this the most economical way for myself as there isn’t an immediate need; I wait for the price reductions, or try to find an alternative.

Nik Adams says:
14 March 2015

Coverage in rural areas is patchy at best leading to dropped calls when travelling by road. Perhaps allowing/encouraging the providers to use each others’ cell towers could see an improvement in the poor coverage that we currently experience

H Griffiths says:
15 March 2015

I’m reading some of the comments about not getting as much as 50MB for broadband, and wonder how they’d feel living where I do – with typically around 1.2MB, we never as much as 2MB regardless of time of day etc., and no plan for it even being looked at. Yet we pay the same as people who live a few miles away and get 160MB. It’s not as if we live on a remote mountain top, we are just 4 miles outside of Bedford, and 40 miles from London.

Providers should not be allowed to charge the full rate when they deliver a fraction of a service. And why are millions being invested to upgrade people further when they already get a decent service, and we don’t even have a basic service?

Duncan McClymont says:
15 March 2015

I agree fully, pro-rata all charges then the providers will be scrabbling over each other to upgrade no spots… So long as they are not allowed to simply ignore them!!

Toni says:
15 March 2015

I live in Wilden Bedfordshire; our village does not have a decent speed of broadband and indeed all I can get is a pathetic speed of 29 Kbps! This means I can’t even get real internet access let alone download any files. Like many in the village I am self-employed but this lack of provision makes it almost impossible to work from home and answer queries and clients in a professional or speedy way, necessitating a costly trip out to ‘work’ on free wifi. Wilden does not even make the list for the broadband provision that the County Council is working on in partnership with the Governement rural boradband scheme. When we enquire we are basically told we’ll be lucky if we make the 2016/17 list. Instead focus seems to be on new- build estates near Bedford and other areas which are not actually rural and therefore would not come under the rural broadband scheme – but of course, are easier to supply .
This is a really poor state of affairs and its difficult to know what it is the village will need to do in order to get any of the broadband issues addressed. I suspect we’ll just have to whistle……

alex says:
17 March 2015

I intensely dislike the mobile company practice of increasing prices mid contract. In particular the way the letters advising increases make try to make fools of people by appearing to offer something extra not required and the stating the increase. I suppose it is clever marketing. If more people refused there increase perhaps something can be done.

A simple answer to this problem is to sign up to a 1-month SIM-only contract or a provider like giffgaff where you don’t have to commit to more than one month at a time. Don’t let a network push you into a excessively long contract of 12, 18 or 24 months. Such a long minimum contract duration is unnecessary.

Sorry, but you seem to be ignoring the contract that an ISP might be forced into by their supplier, whether that be Openreach or a different ISP such as TalkTalk or Entanet.

Some ISPs offer 1 month rolling contracts, but many do not. For Fibre (FTTC) Openreach requires an ISP to take a minimum 12 month contract and pay an installation fee. Most ISPs ask their customer to take an 18 month contract (because with discounts, cashback, and sometimes free installation or free transfer, which have cost the ISP, the 18 month timescale is required to break even).

Even with mobile networks, the cashback and commission fees that may be payable (eg when I used T-Mobile, and signed up for a 12 month contract, TopCashback, having been paid a commission by T-Mobile, passed on over 100 pounds to me). If the networks paid out and never had a guarantee of 12 or 18 months of income, they’d all go bankrupt.

I know your feeling is that handsets should be bought outright, but for many, the 500+ cost of the latest phone is not easily affordable, and those customers must understand that 18 or 24 months may be required to cover the cost of the phone, as well as giving them bundles of minutes, texts and data at fairly low cost – ie more than half the monthly fee may be to cover the cost of the phone.

Should have added – there’s often a higher cost on 1 month mobile or ISP contracts. The benefit for a customer of signing up for a longer time is the discount they are given. I would always sugest trying a mobile network with a PAYG SIM to check coverage first, before committing to any contract option.

On buying handsets outright – It might be cheaper to buy the phone with a credit card and pay it back at your own pace than effectively rent it from a mobile phone company.

Sadly, not everyone has a credit card to be able to spread the cost (and I doubt the mobile network fees get anywhere near to 20% interest – they’re likely to be closer to 0% interest on the cost of the phone, because they’d get a discount for buying 50,000 of one model, for example, and we’d get no discount.)

Sorry – I was making an unforgivable assumption that anybody who must have the latest phone would probably be in a position to pay for it. Also, I didn’t do the maths as you must have done.

Not sure whether Which? has covered standard phone line rental fees recently (they seem to be ever increasing, apparently to allow firms to offer cut-price (or ‘free’) internet access.

I’ve seen topics such as compensation if your broadband is slow (sorry, fact of life and I don’t see how it can ever be ‘guaranteed’) or unavailable (that’s different!), but not on simple phone line rent.

I’ve just had loss of dialtone (and later, broadband) for the second time in a month, because of grotty old aluminium cabling which was installed years ago in place of copper.

I’m with The Post Office, which I believe (from ISPreview.co.uk) “buys in” broadband (and probably the line rental business) from TalkTalk wholesale. I lost dialtone a week ago on Friday (20/03) and reported it. Estimate for repair is “within 3 working days” taking me to the following Wednesday. An Openreach engineer came on the 21/03 and explained that he could find no spare pairs back to the cabinet (a sub-contractor or other Openreach engineer may have used my connection to serve someone else – there are several blocks of flats between my home and the street cabinet).

He did say that there is, however, copper cable (probably has 100 or more paired wires) to be installed (the current problem is that there’s a 90 degree turn where the side street meets the main road, and that’s where many of the aluminium wires have broken). So a solution is around the corner.

On Wednesday afternoon, having not been home, the Post Office left a voicemail on my mobile, telling me they have been advised that underground engineering work (installing the new cable!) was going to be needed, and putting back the expected date for my line to be working until 06/04 (Easter Monday – I think it unlikely to start working again that day!).

Openreach pays out £7.58 {a month’s wholesale line rental} per DAY of delay. Post Office plans to refund the daily charges for those days I am without service (approx 30p per day). The customer services person I spoke to knew nothing about the compensation Openreach pays out (and am not too surprised, really), but in any case, I will not be able to find out whether TalkTalk (as customer of Openreach) will get the compensation and hold onto it, or whether the Post Office has any agreement with TalkTalk for Post Office Telecomms to get the compensation.

My input to Ofcom will be to stipulate that any compensation from Openreach should get the the end user – the bill payer, whether they be a business or residential user, and not held by the telecom firms. Openreach is late, I’m significantly affected, but one or other intermediate firm will profit by around £7 per extra day I am without service and I will only see a bill reduction so am not being charged for days without service… not giving me any compensation, just not billing me under false pretences.

UPDATE – out of the blue, yesterday afternoon I spotted 2 Openreach vans (driver of one had parked in a street near my home, and got into the other van before I could speak to either driver)…

Good news is that they fixed my second line, so by 17:30 both lines were active again.

Bad news is that at about 10:30 this morning, my ‘first’ line (in use for 2+ years, not 2+ months), has lost dialtone and broadband. Two Openreach vans within 200m of home. First was to fix a problem in my street, second was to fix a problem for someone in one of the blocks of flats.

Appointment for someone from Openreach to sort out line #1 is Thursday, 02/04

Christopher Gardner says:
11 June 2015

This is good news for people who pay for broadband,but what if your telephone charges are combined with your broadband connection.Does this still allow people to change provider.

Anything that makes these companies act in our best interests will be a positive, for too long they have been complacently reaping the rewards with misleading advertising and suspect information. I also do not understand why any one company can offer so many variations on three basic packages i.e. broadband package speed, broadband data downloads and phone costs. They try to muddy the waters and indiscriminately change the terms of offers. They give you al the attention in the world when you are looking to buy but once you are hooked, you cease to exist for them. When trying to buy a package, response times are almost immediate but if you have a problem or a question after you have bought, suddenly responses can take ages.
The list of poor service is endless and rarely seems to get better, and once they have provided this service, they send a tiresome survey which actually changes nothing for future service from them.


We are all concerned about Broadband speed and have come a long way since Dial up.

However like this evening the speed is diabolical like most sundays..

Reason has to be because it`s a weekend and a lot of people are at home and using the internet.

I am told that the best way of getting a constant speed is to leave the computer connected to the
internet all day?

Is this what the majority of consumers are doing thus causing the slow speeds?

J Mascarenhas says:
19 June 2015

Yes this is good news but do your readers know that BT have put up their line rental from£15.99 to £18.99 per month. They call it Line Rental Plus and it would provide bill updates to your landline- call barring- choose to refuse…. I suppose this is to make up for the 12billion of EE takeover!!!. Readers please check and “Which” would you please ask BT to reverse this.Thanks