Latest telecoms and pay TV complaints revealed

15 December 2015

Ofcom today published data on the volume of consumer complaints it received against the major providers of telecoms and pay TV services.

The latest report covers the three-month period from July to September 2015 (Q3), and includes complaints made about 13 providers of fixed line telephone, fixed line broadband, pay monthly mobile and pay TV services. Complaints figures are presented per 100,000 customers.

Information plays an important role in ensuring communications markets work for consumers. By publishing complaints data, Ofcom aims to give people who are looking for a new provider useful information for comparing companies' performance. The quarterly reports also offer an incentive to providers to improve their performance.

The total volume of telecoms and pay TV complaints made to Ofcom increased between Q2 and Q3 2015. Broadband and fixed line telephone saw the most notable increases in total volume of complaints.

Complaints about pay monthly mobile and pay TV also increased, while the total complaint volume for mobile pay-as-you-go remained at similar levels to Q2 2015.

Claudio Pollack, Director of Ofcom's Content and Consumer Group, said: "We expect providers to make customer service and complaints handling top priorities, so it's disappointing to see a rise in the number of complaints.

"Consumers have a right to expect good service and will rightfully complain when that standard isn't met. Ofcom is continuing work to make switching easier and our complaints data allows consumers to make meaningful comparisons that can be useful when looking for a new provider."

Landline telephone

EE and Plusnet generated the highest volumes of landline complaints (34 per 100,000 customers and 33 per 100,000 customers respectively).

The main complaint drivers for EE landline customers were concerns about faults, service and provision1 (27%); problems changing provider (26%); and complaints handling (19%).

The main reasons for Plusnet's complaints were issues around faults, service and provision (30%); billing, pricing and charges (21%); and changing provider and complaints handling (both 19%). Plusnet's total complaints volume increased by 13 complaints per 100,000 between Q2 and Q3 2015.

BT, Post Office HomePhone and TalkTalk also continued to generate landline complaint volumes above the industry average of 17 per 100,000 customers.

Virgin Media's complaints (6 per 100,000 customers) fell marginally below Sky's total complaints volume (7 per 100,000 customers), making it the best performing provider.

Landline telephone complaints per 100,000 customers



EE continued to generate the most complaints for fixed line broadband as a proportion of its customer base (45 per 100,000 customers) during the third quarter of the year.

Problems relating to faults, service and provision (40%); billing, pricing and charges (20%); and complaints handling (19%) were the main drivers of complaints about EE broadband.

Plusnet and BT saw significant increases in their broadband complaints volumes in Q3 2015.

Complaints about Plusnet broadband increased to 37 per 100,000 customers (from 20 per 100,000 customers) and complaints about BT increased to 35 per 100,000 customers (from 22 per 100,000 customers). Both of these overall increases were driven by an increased number of complaints relating to faults, service and provision.

The total complaints volume for TalkTalk increased to 33 per 100,000 customers and remained higher than the industry average (22 per 100,000 customers).

Sky complaints (7 per 100,000 customers) were below the industry average but had increased slightly since Q2 2015 (5 per 100,000 customers).

Virgin Media complaints (6 per 100,000 customers) were also below the industry average and had decreased slightly over the quarter (7 per 100,000 customers in Q2 2015).

Fixed broadband complaints per 100,000 customers


Pay-monthly mobile

Vodafone remained the most complained about mobile provider, after complaint volumes increased to 20 complaints per 100,000 customers in the quarter (from 14 per 100,000 customers).

The main drivers of Vodafone complaints were problems with billing, pricing and charges (37%); complaints handling (28%); and concerns around faults, service and provision (17%).

EE was the only other mobile provider to generate more complaints (9 per 100,000 customers) than the industry average of 8 per 100,000 customers.

Total complaints volume for Talk Mobile decreased significantly to 6 per 100,000 customers, compared with 12 per 100,000 in Q2 2015.

Virgin Mobile, O2 and Three UK all generated complaints volumes below the industry average.

Tesco Mobile generated the lowest volume of complaints per 100,000 customers for the seventh consecutive quarter (1 complaint).

Pay-monthly mobile complaints per 100,000 customers


Pay TV

BT became the most complained about pay TV provider in Q3 2015. Complaints volume increased significantly to 25 per 100,000 customers, compared to 11 per 100,000 in Q2 2015.

The main reasons for BT complaints were fault, service and provision issues (31%); complaints handling (25%); and issues relating to billing, pricing and charges (22%).

The complaint volume for TalkTalk (14 per 100,000 customers) remained in line with the previous quarter. Virgin Media's total complaint volume remained unchanged at (5 per 100,000 customers), the same as the industry average.

The only provider to generate fewer complaints than the industry average was Sky (2 per 100,000 customers), which remained the best-performing pay TV provider.

Pay TV complaints per 100,000 customers


Ofcom's work on complaints and quality of service

On average, Ofcom receives slightly fewer than 300 telecoms complaints a day from consumers.

These are analysed – alongside customer service satisfaction data and other sources of evidence – to help inform when and where additional consumer protection 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.

As part of this, Ofcom commissioned an independent study to look at whether providers are informing consumers with unresolved complaints of their right to go to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

The research indicated that a number of providers were not sending appropriate letters as often as they should and Ofcom set clear expectations for improvement.

Evidence gathered as part of this monitoring programme has also led to Ofcom opening separate investigations into the complaints handling procedures of Three UK, EE and Vodafone.

Ofcom fined Three UK £250,000 in October 2014, and in July this year EE was fined £1,000,000 by Ofcom for failing to comply with rules on handling customers' complaints.

The investigation into Vodafone's complaints handling procedures – the third to take place under this programme – is on-going.



Relative scale of average complaints per 100,000 customers, by sector (quarterly)


  1. In Q3 2015, after seven quarters of overall decline, the average number of complaints per 100,000 broadband customers returned to the same level as in Q3 2013 (22 complaints per 100,000). Despite complaint levels also increasing across fixed line, mobile pay monthly and pay TV in Q3 2015, the average total complaints volumes remained lower than in Q3 2013.
  2. The criterion that Ofcom generally applies for inclusion in this report is that providers have a market share of 1.5% or above.
  3. Complaint numbers had previously been reported per 1,000 subscribers. This is the first edition of this quarterly report to present complaints per 100,000 subscribers. Providers described as generating the most or fewest complaints therefore do so in relative terms, per 100,000 subscribers. This is the nineteenth quarterly Ofcom report to include complaints data by provider, and the fifteenth report to include data for pay TV complaints.
  4. Where we refer to providers' relative positions, as best or worst providers for example, we mean of those providers included in the report. Similarly, 'industry average' refers to the average of providers included in the report. Complaints about other smaller providers are not included in the report or the average.
  5. In this context, 'service' relates to issues with the communications service being provided e.g. coverage issues, broadband speeds, restriction of service by provider etc.
  6. 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.
  7. Advice for consumers on how to complain about a provider can be found on Ofcom's website.