/ 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?

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.