Making a complaint

21 September 2015

Initially, if you experience a problem, you should contact your service provider's customer services department or account relationship manager (if your business has one) and explain your problem.

If that doesn't resolve the issue, you can make a formal complaint to the company. Complaints will normally be escalated through the standard procedures set up by the company.

All communications providers are required to have a Code of Practice outlining how they will deal with customer complaints made by residential and small business customers.

You should find details of how to make a complaint on the back of your bill and on your provider's website.

If you can't find these details, the company's customer service staff should tell you how to make a formal complaint.

Remember to always ask for a reference number when making a complaint.

You can also complain to Ofcom by clicking this link. Please note that Ofcom cannot process or take action over individual complaints. However, we use complaints data to help us identify cases where enforcement action may be required and also to highlight problem areas where other regulatory action may be appropriate, such as the introduction of new rules to protect consumers and/or businesses.

I am a business with ten employees or fewer

If your provider doesn't resolve the problem to your satisfaction and your complaint becomes a dispute, the next step is to take your dispute to the appropriate Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme

ADR is an important piece of protection we require all communications providers to offer to consumers and small businesses.  It allows you to refer complaints that cannot be resolved with your provider to an independent body in order to reach an impartial resolution. Access to ADR is free of charge (other than photocopying or postage costs) and an ADR decision is binding on the provider.

If your provider fails to resolve your problem within eight weeks, you can take your complaint to ADR. This can be done sooner if your provider issues you with a 'deadlock' letter informing you that it won't be taking any further action on your complaint.

Your provider should give you details on how to escalate your complaint to ADR and must tell you which ADR scheme it is a member of. You can also use our ADR checker.

I am a business with more than ten employees

Having made a formal complaint, if you are not satisfied with your provider's response and wish to pursue it further, then you will need to seek your own independent legal advice. Some providers will still provide you with the right to go to ADR with your dispute, but this is at their own discretion.

If there is a fault or breakage on your line, it can have a serious impact on your business. Your service provider is responsible for ensuring that faults are rectified.

If your service relies on BT's network, your service provider will report faults to Openreach, the division of BT which installs and maintains telephone and broadband connections. Your provider will be responsible for ensuring that Openreach rectify any faults.

You should contact your own service provider in the first instance to report any faults, having first checked that your own equipment is in working order.

Your service provider may guarantee that faults will be repaired within a certain period of time from the point at which you report them. You should check your contract to determine what standards apply.

You may also be entitled to some form of compensation if your fault is not repaired in line with these standards. However, you will need to check the specific fault repair and consumer redress policies of your retail provider. If in doubt, you should ask your provider for further information.

Openreach is now subject to minimum performance standards set by Ofcom. These requirements, which came into force on 1 July 2014, mean the large majority of telephone or broadband faults must be repaired within two working days; while the large majority of appointments for a new line installation must be provided within 12 working days. These targets apply to Openreach's most-used products, which are used by telephone companies to offer phone and broadband to businesses across the UK.

If you're having difficulty paying a bill or are unable to pay, don't ignore it. Talk to your provider as soon as possible. You may find your provider can offer you a plan that spreads the payments and eases the pressure.

Occasionally you may not agree with the charges on your bill. If you're disputing a bill, having the outstanding amount referred to debt collectors can be extremely worrying.

If you find that you have been referred to a debt collection agency while in dispute with your provider, you should contact the agency and explain this to them.

It is possible that they will allow you time to resolve your dispute. It's also important you follow your phone company's complaints procedure.

If you haven't paid your bill for landline services, your provider must act fairly if it takes action to secure payment or to disconnect you.  In particular, it must give you advance warning if it is going to disrupt or disconnect your service because of the non-payment.  You should find the steps it may take to obtain payment or to make a disconnection published on its website.

If you have a problem when sending mail, you should follow the advice below, and contact your provider first. If you have a problem with mail received, you should contact the sender in the first instance to find out details of the posting and service.

As a business, if you use a universal service provided by Royal Mail you can use the same complaints procedure as residential customers. If your complaint is not resolved to your satisfaction you can refer the matter to the independent postal dispute resolution service (PostRS).

Royal Mail's universal services are subject to quality of service targets and there are published compensation arrangements for delay, damage and loss.

In all other cases, if you use a non-universal service from Royal Mail or via a contract from another provider, the compensation arrangements will depend on the contract.

You can find out how to complain about operators via the Ofcom postal services page.