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Latest phone, broadband and pay TV complaints revealed

September 26, 2012

Ofcom today published its latest complaints data, revealing the most complained about major telecoms and pay TV providers between April and June 2012.

This is Ofcom’s sixth quarterly report, which aims to provide useful information to help consumers make informed decisions when considering a new service or provider, and also to incentivise operators to improve their performance.

Landline telephone services

In the landline telephone market, all providers included in the research achieved lower volumes of complaints during the three months to June 2012 than for the previous quarter.

Ofcom received the most complaints during the second quarter of 2012 from customers of TalkTalk Group, with 0.53 complaints per 1,000 customers.

For landline, TalkTalk is the only provider whose complaint levels are above the average of the companies included in the research1, with customers mainly experiencing issues with billing and customer service. However, this is the fewest number of complaints that TalkTalk has received about its landline services since Ofcom first began publishing complaints data in 2010.

The least complained about provider in the same period was Virgin Media, with 0.14 complaints per 1,000 customers.

Landline telephony complaints per 1,000 customers, October 2010 – June 2012

Broadband services

Ofcom’s data shows that in the second quarter of 2012, all broadband providers included in the research generated fewer complaints to Ofcom compared to the previous quarter.

TalkTalk Group generated the most complaints as a proportion of its broadband customer base with 0.42 complaints per 1,000 customers, (although down from 0.56 per 1,000 customers three months earlier).  Most of these complaints were about line faults and other service issues.  BT Retail and TalkTalk had above industry average level of complaints during the last quarter.

Sky’s broadband service attracted fewest complaints – 0.10 per 1,000 customers.

Fixed broadband complaints per 1,000 customers, October 2010 – June 2012

Mobile services

The report now includes data which distinguishes between mobile phone complaints from ‘pay-monthly’ (or ‘contract’) customers and ‘pay-as-you-go’ customers.

This captures the relative performance of operators more accurately, as pay-monthly customers are more likely to complain to Ofcom than pay-as-you-go customers, with around 95 per cent of mobile complaints received by Ofcom coming from pay-monthly customers.  The ratios between pay-monthly and pay-as-you-go customers also vary significantly across the different mobile providers.

Looking at pay-monthly complaints in isolation, Ofcom received the most complaints during the quarter from customers of 3UK. 3UK generated 0.19 complaints per 1,000 customers, mainly driven by disputes over charges and issues with customer service.

3UK, T-Mobile, Vodafone and Orange all had pay-monthly mobile complaints in excess of the industry average.  O2 was the least complained about mobile provider with 0.05 complaints per 1,000 customers.

As no provider has consistently received more than 30 complaints about pay-as-you-go services per month, it is not statistically valid to include separate data for these.  However, Ofcom will continue to monitor pay-as-you-go mobile complaint levels for future complaints reports.

Mobile telephone (pay-monthly) complaints per 1,000 customers, October 2010 – June 2012

* Note difference in scale to landline and broadband services

In previous editions of its complaints data, Ofcom has reported on ‘overall’ mobile complaints (including both pay-monthly and pay-as-you-go complaints).  This data also revealed 3UK to be the most complained about provider for the period April to June 2012, with 0.15 complaints per 1,000 customers.  Once again, O2 was least complained about provider, generating 0.02 complaints per 1,000 customers.

Ofcom intends to discontinue the reporting of overall mobile complaints in future editions of the report in favour of separate reporting on pay-monthly and pay-as-you-go complaints for greater accuracy.

Pay TV services

From April to June 2012, Ofcom received the most complaints about BT Vision, with 0.25 complaints per 1,000 customers, down from 0.27 the previous quarter. Complaints were mainly driven by issues relating to sales processes and problems with billing.

Virgin Media also generated above average industry complaints at 0.07 complaints per 1,000 customers, while Ofcom received the fewest complaints about Sky, at 0.02 complaints per 1,000 customers.

Pay-TV complaints per 1,000 customers, October 2010 – June 2012

* Note difference in scale to landline and broadband services

Changes to the report

Ofcom has introduced additional data in the latest edition of its report to make it more helpful for consumers, including:

  • an ‘industry average’ number of complaints for each service, against which providers can be benchmarked. This gives added incentive to providers to improve performance relative to industry average levels. This average relates only to the providers included in the Ofcom research;
  • a chart showing the relative volume of complaints across the different services.  This shows that in Q2 2012, as in previous quarters, we received the highest level of complaints about fixed broadband services and the lowest level about Pay-TV
  • separate reporting on ‘pay-monthly’ and ‘pay-as-you-go’ mobile services to ensure a more accurate reflection of relative performance of different providers

In future complaints reports, Ofcom proposes to publish data that separates pay-monthly from pay-as-you-go mobile complaints, and discontinue the overall mobile complaints data completely. Ofcom invites stakeholder comments on this proposal, to be submitted by 5pm on 26 October 2012. For more details on the consultation, please refer to the report.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

1. The ‘industry average’ refers to the average of providers included in the Ofcom research. Complaints about other smaller providers are not included in this average.

2.  The source for pay-TV market share is Screen Digest, which publishes industry-recognised data on a quarterly basis. The source for market share in telecoms services is subscriber numbers provided confidentially to Ofcom by the respective providers.

3.  The limitations of Ofcom’s complaints data are set out in the report.

4. Consumers typically raise a complaint with their provider in the first instance. If the provider is not able to resolve the complaint within eight weeks, the consumer can make an application to an independent Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme, which can examine the complaint and reach a judgement on the issue. In addition, some consumers contact Ofcom: on average, we receive around 300 consumer complaints a day. While we do not resolve individual complaints, we offer advice on how best to resolve the issue and use the data to inform policy and enforcement actions.

5.  Advice for consumers on how to complain about a provider can be found on Ofcom’s website.

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