Telecoms and pay-TV complaints from January to March 2015

30 June 2015

Ofcom today published data on the volumes of consumer complaints made to Ofcom against the major providers of telecoms and pay TV services.

The latest report covers the three-month period from January to March 2015 (Q1), and reports on the complaints made to 13 providers of fixed line telephone, fixed line broadband, pay monthly mobile and pay TV services.

This is the seventeenth quarterly Ofcom report to include complaints data by provider, and the thirteenth report to include data for pay TV complaints.

By publishing complaints data, Ofcom aims to provide consumers who are looking for a new provider with useful information they can use to easily compare providers’ performance. The quarterly reports also provide an incentive to providers to improve their performance.

The total volume of telecoms and pay TV complaints made to Ofcom decreased slightly in Q1 2015.

While overall complaints volumes were marginally higher in Q1 for broadband and pay TV services, fixed line telephone and mobile pay monthly services both saw a reduction in complaints.

The volume of complaints about mobile pay-as-you-go services remained at similar levels to Q4 2014. Broadband services continued to attract the most complaints.

Claudio Pollack, Director of Ofcom’s Content and Consumer Group, said: “Publishing provider-specific complaints data is one way we’re able to help consumers make informed choices about the services on offer to them.

“The reduction in the total volume of complaints is welcome, but there is still room for providers to improve their performance. This report is one of a number of ways we seek to give providers incentive to address areas of customer dissatisfaction.”

Landline telephone services

In the landline telephone market, EE continued to generate the most complaints, with volumes increasing from 0.36 per 1,000 customers in Q4 2014 to 0.39 in Q1 2015.

The main complaint drivers for EE landline customers were problems changing provider (33%), concerns about faults, service and provision (28%) and complaints handling (18%).

BT, Plusnet and TalkTalk also generated landline complaint volumes above the industry average of 0.13 per 1,000 customers. The level of complaints from Post Office HomePhone customers (0.13) was in line with the industry average.

Sky (0.05 per 1,000 customers) and Virgin Media (0.07 per 1,000 customers) attracted landline complaints volumes below the industry average. Sky generated the lowest number of landline customer complaints.

Landline telephone complaints per 1,000 customers

1

Broadband services

EE generated the most complaints for broadband as a proportion of its customer base during the first quarter of this year, with 0.51 per 1,000 customers.

This reflected an increase in complaints about EE’s broadband since Q4 2014 (0.42 per 1,000 customers in Q4 2014), and the highest level of complaints since Q1 2013.

Problems relating to faults, service and provision (37%), billing, pricing and charges (20%) and complaints handling (20%) were the main drivers of complaints about EE broadband.

BT, Plusnet and TalkTalk all generated complaint volumes above the industry average, with TalkTalk also seeing a complaints increase (up to 0.26 per 1,000 customers).

Virgin Media complaints (0.09 per 1,000 customers) were below the industry average, but had increased since Q4 2014 (0.06 per 1,000 customers).

Sky’s relative complaint volumes (0.05 per 1,000 customers) fell below Virgin Media’s, making it the best performing broadband provider.

Fixed broadband complaints per 1,000 customers

2

Mobile pay-monthly services

Vodafone continued to generate the highest volume of mobile complaints per 1,000 customers (0.14), a similar level to Q4 2014.

The main drivers of Vodafone complaints were problems with billing, pricing and charges (33%), complaints handling (29%) and concerns around faults, service and provision (16%).

Both EE and Talk Mobile also generated complaints volumes higher than the industry average (0.10 and 0.11 per 1,000 customers respectively), although both providers did see a reduction in complaints since Q4 2014.

Virgin Mobile, O2, Three UK and Tesco Mobile all generated complaints volumes below the industry average of 0.08 per 1,000 customers. Tesco Mobile generated the lowest volume of complaints per 1,000 customers (0.01) for the fourth consecutive quarter.

Mobile pay-monthly complaints per 1,000 customers

3

Pay TV services

BT continued to generate the highest volume of pay TV complaints per 1,000 customers (0.15).

TalkTalk Group generated the second-highest complaints volumes (0.12 per 1,000 customers) and saw an increase in complaints since Q4 2014.

The number of complaints against Virgin Media was in line with the industry average (0.04 per 1,000 customers).

Sky was the only provider to generate fewer complaints than the industry average (0.01 per 1,000 customers), and it remained the best-performing pay TV provider.

Pay TV complaints per 1,000 customers

4

On average, Ofcom receives just under 300 telecoms complaints a day from consumers.

These individual contacts are analysed - alongside customer service satisfaction data and other sources of evidence - to help inform when and where additional consumer protection measures may be needed.
Earlier this year, Ofcom extended an industry-wide monitoring and enforcement programme looking at providers’ compliance with requirements for complaints handling procedures.

Two separate investigations into Vodafone have also been launched, looking at its compliance with Ofcom’s rules on complaints handling, metering and billing, and sales and marketing practices.

In October 2014, Three was fined £250,000 by Ofcom for failing to comply with rules on handling customers’ complaints. A current investigation into EE’s complaints handling procedures is ongoing.

ENDS

NOTES FOR EDITORS

Relative scale of complaints by sector (quarterly)

5

  1. The submission of revised subscriber data by EE has resulted in some minor adjustments to their stated complaints volumes for previous quarters (EE landline complaints between Q2 & Q4 2014; and EE broadband complaints between Q4 2010 and Q4 2014). The most significant amendment for landline services changes the previously reported complaints per 1,000 customers’ volume by a measure of 0.03 (Q4 2014). All other amendments involve an adjustment of <0.03.
  1. The criterion that Ofcom generally applies for inclusion in this report is that providers have a market share of 1.5% or above.
  1. 'Industry average' refers to the average of providers included in this publication. Complaints about other smaller providers are not included in this average.
  1. 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 submit their complaint for consideration by an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme under General Condition 14.5. In addition, some consumers contact Ofcom. While Ofcom does not resolve individual complaints, it offers advice on how best to resolve the issue and uses the data to inform policy and enforcement actions.
  1. To enable comparison, complaints are reported per 1,000 subscribers. Providers described as generating the most or fewest complaints therefore do so in relative terms, per 1,000 subscribers.
  1. Advice for consumers on how to complain about a provider can be found on Ofcom's website.

CONTACT

Kate McGown
Ofcom Communications
0300 123 1795
kate.mcgown@ofcom.org.uk