/ 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?


1. Mobile coverage
2. Broadband coverage
3. Broadband speed

The whole service is over priced for what it is at the basic level. It is also becoming a social necessity for many. Coverage is abysmal and often non existent. Schemes often require one to take on a scheme that is not appropriate for one’s needs, or not have the facility at all. Many of the Firms need lessons in the correct way to treat and deal with Customer – the source of their livelihood.

Abayomi says:
12 March 2015

Investigate them all, they are all crooks

Duncan McClymont says:
12 March 2015

Awful service in many area’s
Really need to push for FTTC in ALL area’s and we really need to know when it is going to be installed.

Our village has the green boxes, they have been there from before Xmas last year, and we cannot get any information as to when they are going to be made live!

We (/tax payers) are funding this, yet we cannot get any answers – pathetic and dishonest!

I disagree that we need FTTC. Instead we need FTTP. I have FTTP at home in London, which gives me gigabit speeds (upstream and downstream). My situation should become the norm, not the exception. The maximum speeds supported by FTTC will be outdated in a few years’ time, so the focus should be on FTTP instead.

When broadband was first introduced in the UK, consumers thought that 0.5Mbps was fast, and nobody thought they would need as much as 10Mbps. You might wonder why we need 1Gbps, but it’s only a matter of time before streaming 4k video becomes widespread, and there will be plenty of other bandwidth-hungry services that we haven’t even thought of yet. FTTC is already yesterday’s technology.

“I disagree that we need FTTC. Instead we need FTTP. I have FTTP at home in London, which gives me gigabit speeds (upstream and downstream).”

While I’m envious (max speed estimate for my home is under 35 Mps with FTTC), I don’t think the majority of users would be willing to pay significantly more for FTTP. I don’t know which ISP you use, nor what they charge (am interested, for academic reasons), the most recent charges I saw were in the 50 to 100 pounds for services offering fibre only (I forget the names of the firms, it was unlikely to be important as they were not offering service in the North-West, where I currently live), but for FTTPoD it would cost me some £1,500 to get a fibre installed and then well over £100 a month rrental with minimum contract of 3 years. Now, that’s for 330 Mbps, and the ISP is charged at the £100/month level, so with their costs and VAT and even a small profit on top, I would expect it to cost me £150.

Perhaps if HS2 was scrapped, and a portion of the money used to provide FTTP for everyone across the UK (and that’s more likely to be at 100 Mbps rather than the massive speeds you have.

I’m assuming your service provider is someone such as Hyperoptic, so not an Openreach van in sight 🙂

doug says:
12 March 2015

I called and emailed a friend’s network (Vodafone) after the security checks , I explained that he had a contract where he can’t use the internet where he lives, the response was it’s his fault, in short ,this is talking and emailing their executive office , what a bunch of liars is my conclusion , their dishonest me astounds me , at the first complaint their coverage maps were accurate , now they say they got indoor & out door 3g, 3gdc and 4g on the coverage maps, it’s got a G signal on an Samsung 4s ,HTC one & one m8 , a download speed of 0.01 & upload the same mb. So there is no internet ,will they listen of cause not. Do offcom do enough off course not . Poole of x..p

Keith says:
12 March 2015

There are many blank areas where you get no or very poor signals. These phone companies are trying to make impressioned young people to buy into anything they can think of for mobile use. A phone is a phone and we need to keep it that way just for texting and calling numbers. All the other, mainly useless apps being piled on just make to ohone more expensive and the costs used for technical development could be used for better coverage of signals. Perhaps a phone should be sold with a small tablet that deals with toys and other useful (so called) apps that people use on the train like music. The whole phone industry in mobile form has really gone too geeky and potty. Why don’t you have a research on what users really use and hate about mobile phones?

OFCOM has all the powers it needs to regulate this market. It should therefore use them, instead if pussyfooting about and letting the telecoms companies provide such poor value and dishing out such poor service to their customers!

I have been with talk talk from the beginning. Since offering they have been reducing the Broad Band speed. Which of course they deny. To make me take fibre optic. My son agrees with me as when he is at home he has noticed the drop. Emails when being sent now hover for a bit. Changing pages takes longer. real noticeable sluggish speed .

Really fed up says:
12 March 2015

@t Balfour. I agree with you, and sick of no-one doing anything about it.

Pure Poison says:
12 March 2015

I hate when the mobile operators increase the price midway through your contract.

just received another replacement windows call, non-human (recording) – seems Ofcom are doing their best as usual

Bob R says:
12 March 2015

When using a mobile phone shop, I’d like assistance with my needs, which are for a phone, nothing else. The staff seem to think we are all technofobs that understand and want everything that is available in the latest phone come computer. All I want is a pone to call people from and I don’t want to be made to feel as if I am wasting the shop’s time. Maybe there is a god business opportunity here?

Jayne G says:
12 March 2015

We have paid our service provider for Fibre optic broadband which goes as far as the nearest cabinet to our house. Unfortunately this is over a mile from our house. Our download speed has increased from 1.6 to 5.6 Mbps which is a small improvement, but the length of the copper wire from the cabinet to our house seems to be the problem. More investment should be put in to replacing the whole of the network so that rural properties and businesses have nearly the same service as urban properties.

Do you really think that all urban areas have good mobile signal and excellent broadband. My mobile never gets more than 2 bars out of 5 on reception, and the broadband slows down on an evening as low as 0.5Mbps. So, I am essentially paying for services which are both useless when needed. I live in an urban city of almost 300,000 others and wonder why it is so easy to con us all! Incidentally, I was recently on my mobile complaining to Tesco Mobile about the poor service when I was cut-off (dropped call they call it) And no, they didn’t ring me back. Pity Ofcom are useless too.

Ted says:
12 March 2015

As far as internet broadband is concerned, it seems that the common denominator for consistently poor speeds falls squarely into the lap of OpenReach, when the likes of Virgin or other fibre companies are not in your area. What galls is that there appears to be absolutely no way of communication with this company which has, pretty-much, a monopoly on land-line BB infrastructure. End users can’t communicate or make a complaint, not can ISPs it seems!
They appear to be a law unto themselves and in their privileged position care not about rectifying poor performance due to outdated or defunct equipment, until of course it is convenient or persuasively profitable.

No competition – no interest in doing things right for the consumer, as OR know that the consumer can do sweet FA about it apart from giving up BB entirely or move house.
…and that brings another problem – try selling a house poorly serviced by broadband these days!
Figures more and more for prospective buyers.

datoukrouni says:
12 March 2015

I have taken a vodafone contract tought to be on 3G coverage only to discover later on is on 2G instead. Vodafone’s biggest companie, poorest provider of all. In term of dishonesty they all rank top. Same like the banks. Profit come first. Ofcom should be the honest game Player because they endorsed these mess as it’s been going on for too long now. Poor consumers like me can’t wait to get out of this nonsense called contract. Monthly SIM only is the alternative for now.

I would like to see an end to monthly allowances and instead for consumers to be charged only for how much they use. Then the concept of being “on the wrong mobile contract for one’s usage” would immediately go away.

Imagine if we had to buy electricity and gas in this way – either guess how much you will consume in a month which wastes any units that you don’t use by the end of the month, or otherwise be stung with a unit price that is many times the usual price. For example, let’s assume that electricity costs around 10p to 25p per kWh, depending on supplier. Instead of charging you 12p/kWh, your supplier lets you buy a monthly bundle of 500kWh for £60 or otherwise you pay an inflated price of £1/kWh for incremental usage. If you don’t use up the full 500kWh, you lose the unused units and if you use more than 500kWh, then you pay £1/kWh. Neither Ofgem nor consumers would tolerate this with energy, so why do Ofcom and consumers tolerate it with mobile phone services?

The only purpose of monthly allowances and bundles is to charge the consumer in full for usage that isn’t fully consumed and to charge prohibitively high rates for any usage over the monthly allowance or bundle. This practice favours the mobile networks without giving any advantages to consumers. I’m not suggesting that consumers shouldn’t be able to bulk-buy their future consumption, but it is unreasonable to impose a monthly expiry on that purchased consumption. The consumer has paid for the consumption in full and should be able to use it in full or otherwise receive a refund of any unused consumption. It would be much simpler and fairer to charge for mobile phone service in the same incremental way as energy – just simple incremental usage prices at competitive prices, similar to Three’s 3-2-1 prices. Of course, mobile networks could offer volume discounts as well as period-based usage (e.g. a fixed fee for unlimited usage in a particular period), but it is an unfair commercial practice to charge consumers for usage that isn’t actually used. It is worth mentioning that the mobile networks offer simple usage-based postpaid tariffs to large corporate customers. That’s because large corporate customers don’t tolerate the ridiculous system of having to guess in advance how much each user will consume. Why can’t all consumers benefit from simple and fair incremental tariffs?

Alan Dowling says:
12 March 2015

If you wish to bulk-buy your future consumption and still be able to retain any unused portion of that, it is best to change to pay-as-you-go (PAYG).
I changed to PAYG several years ago and, as I am not a heavy user of the ‘phone and only send a few texts a week with no internet usage, I never spend more that £5 a month to top up. Usually £5 will last me for two months.
Most of the usage is other people calling me – often about PPI or how they can sell me a cheaper mobile phone contract – so I don’t need to buy a fixed number of minutes a month to use or lose.

Alan, you’ve missed the point. If you are an average or heavy user, then the networks give you no option but to purchase a large bundle of minutes, texts or data which you will either not fully consume or which will be insufficient for your usage. If you don’t purchase such a bundle, then you are charged absurdly high rates.

Take Giffgaff, for example, which is a Which best buy. Giffgaff charges £7.50 for a 1GB bundle, but if you don’t buy a bundle, it charges £200/GB. It’s a similar story with other networks (except for Three on PAYG) Why should consumers have to buy bundles in order to pay a reasonable price for their usage? I refer you back to my example above of energy. Would Ofgem tolerate energy being sold in bundles like this? Of course not. So why does Ofcom tolerate this unfair commercial practice with mobile phone services?

seb says:
12 March 2015

very good point i pay a hell of a lot for my family’s mobile phones tariffs and very rarely do any of my family members go over the minutes text or data so in affect i should be refunded for any of these minutes texts or data that’s not used.

You have the most “nail on the head” hitting submission….great points !!! thank you

Another way to remove the unfairness of the bundle/allowance system would be for Ofcom to force the mobile networks to retrospectively calculate each customer’s bill at the end of the month as if the customer had chosen the most favourable tariff for their needs. Some networks will do this on request if a particular month’s bill is extremely high. It is unreasonable to expect consumers to predict precisely how much they will use. The networks should charge a fair price and not penalise those customers who predict their usage incorrectly.

My mobile phone service, EE, has been trying to persuade me to change to a 4G tariff. 4G isn’t available in my area and the 4G contract doesn’t include unlimited data. I’m a heavy data user and don’t want to be stung with extra data charges.
Having said that NFH has a valid point.

Tomdfree says:
12 March 2015

Kingston Communications have a captive monopoly in Hull and East Yorkshire. There is no alternative provider and their services are both more expensive and slower than national providers. It is a scandal that there has been no attempt by the regulator to compel Kingston to offer access to customers for other providers. Their current attitude displays the same reluctance as BT fifteen years ago, the regulator is ignoring this abuse of monopoly power and pricing.

John says:
12 March 2015

I regret to admit I have a minute need to carry a mobile phone. I’m with Vodaphone, (another downer). I rank among the lowest pay as you go mobile phone users on the planet, but still need nearly £15.00/week to stay connected. If Vodaphone (for just an example) can justify this figure, I’m waiting, though I’m 70 years old & may not live to be correctly advised.

I also use my mobile phone rarely but I am not being stung for it. I am on PAYG with Vodafone and only pay for what I occasionally use. I think it would be worth your while popping into a Vodafone shop and speaking to them about it.

David Rose says:
12 March 2015

Data charges are a complete rip-off – way over-priced.

John Hubert says:
12 March 2015

Here in West Wales I am paying EE £15+ a month for a mobile phone service that hardly ever works. I am paying TalkTalk Business £18+pm for broadband that is only rarely good enough for video without break up and TalkTalk around £25pm for our landline and a few local calls. We have been promised the arrival of fibre broadband [FTTC] for almost a year, but still no sign of anything. We constantly get promotions for cut price bundles that when we check, aren’t available to us (yet?). The big operators just don’t want to upgrade the tiny telephone exchanges. So we pay the highest prices for the worst services in the UK simply because we live in the country. In effect we are helping to pay for the improvement of services to urban dwellers.

Jeff says:
12 March 2015

We live 7 kilometres from Yatton North Somerset exchange. We have speeds of .6 and 1.1 all the time!! Yet pay same as others with more acceptable speeds. Why should country dwellers suffer in this way. Many tmes during day signal is lost all together!! We live in hope and perhaps we might get a refund!! For poor service when the promised faster speed arrives