Ofcom reveals most complained about major telecoms providers

21 April 2011

The most complained about major telecoms providers were today revealed by Ofcom, based on all consumer telecoms complaints received by Ofcom between October 2010 and February 2011.

On average, Ofcom receives 450 telecoms complaints per day about a range of issues including mis-selling, billing errors, lack of service and customer service problems, which reflects the complexity of the telecoms market.

Ofcom believes that publishing regularly this information about the telecoms complaints it receives will:

  • encourage competition, by letting consumers know about the individual performance of providers;
  • be useful for consumers: alongside other things, this data may be relevant to those considering a new service or provider; and
  • incentivise telecoms providers to improve their performance.

In addition to information about telecoms complaints, consumers may wish to consider a range of information when thinking about a communications service, such as price and network quality of service. For example, Ofcom accredits price comparison websites and also publishes information about broadband speeds.

Complaints about telecoms providers

Ofcom has spent a considerable amount of time ensuring that the data is categorised and presented in a reliable form, although it is subject to limitations as detailed in the report.

Ofcom's telecoms complaints report focuses on providers with a 5 per cent market share or more (covering at least 87 per cent of the relevant telecoms market) and looks at all telecoms complaints about these landline, broadband and mobile providers.

For landline and broadband services, this report looks at BT Retail, BSkyB, TalkTalk Group and Virgin Media. For mobile services, it looks at 3UK, O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone.

The number of complaints is published as a proportion of each provider's customer base. This enables consumers to compare providers on a level playing field.

The data published today is from October 2010 to February 2011 and Ofcom intends to publish reports on a quarterly basis. Ofcom also intends to publish more detailed data and for a larger number of providers in future reports.

The full report can be found here: http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-data-research/telecoms-research/complaints/oct-2010-feb-2011

Landline services

Ofcom's data indicates that across landline providers with a market share of 5 per cent or above, it received the most complaints about TalkTalk Group with 1.78 complaints per 1000 customers from October 2010 to February 2011. Ofcom saw a peak in complaints about TalkTalk Group in November 2010, following its investigation into the company for incorrectly billing consumers for cancelled services.

The least complained about provider over the same period was Virgin Media with 0.21 complaints per 1000 customers.

Broadband services

Ofcom's data indicates that across fixed broadband providers with a market share of 5 per cent or above, it received the most complaints about TalkTalk Group with 1.27 complaints per 1000 customers from October 2010 to February 2011.  Ofcom saw a peak in complaints about TalkTalk Group in November 2010, following its investigation into the company for billing consumers for cancelled services.

The least complained about provider was Virgin Media with 0.20 complaints per 1000 customers.

Mobile services

Ofcom's data indicates that across mobile providers with a market share of 5 per cent or above, it receives the most complaints about 3UK with 0.15 complaints per 1000 customers from October 2010 to February 2011.

The least complained about provider was O2 with 0.04 complaints per 1000 customers.

How Ofcom uses complaints data

Ofcom does not investigate individual complaints but it uses consumer complaints data to identify whether there is a particular issue in the market or a problem with a provider that may need addressing. It can then take action either by introducing new regulations (for example, mobile mis-selling) or by investigating a company (for example, investigations into companies for slamming).

Consumers who have a complaint about their provider should follow their provider's complaints process and, if the complaint isn't resolved after eight weeks, can take it to an independent resolution service - CISAS or Ombudsman Services: Communications.

Ofcom Chief Executive, Ed Richards, said: "Consumers should have access to as much information as possible to allow them to choose between providers and to take full advantage of the competition in the sector. By publishing complaints data, Ofcom aims to provide useful information to consumers, and also to give telecoms providers an incentive to improve their customer service".

ENDS

NOTES FOR EDITORS

1. Advice for consumers on how to complain about their communications provider can be found at: http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/files/2009/09/complain.pdf.

2. To ensure consistency, Ofcom has carried out a sensitivity review of the data. The report highlights the specific limitations that apply (pages 6-10 of the report http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-data-research/telecoms-research/complaints/oct-2010-feb-2011).

3. Under section 3 of the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom has a duty to further the interests of citizens and consumers, where appropriate by promoting competition.