Mobile phone service faults and problems

04 May 2017

Are you having problems with your mobile phone? Has it started to lose signal or is it disconnecting in the middle of a call?

Although no-one can guarantee an entirely fault free service, your provider should be working hard to maintain the level of service they promised.

We know how frustrating it can be when things go wrong. If you’re having problems, this guide explains how you can get them sorted.

It includes advice on how to help identify the cause of faults and report them to your provider - as well as information about what your provider should be doing to fix the problem, and what they should do if this takes longer than expected.

Have you made any recent changes?

Have you carried out any building work around your home - such as increasing the number or thickness of any of the walls? In some cases this could affect the strength of your mobile signal.

There are ways to improve your mobile coverage in the home:

  • A small device called a ‘femtocell’. This is similar to a wireless router, and uses your broadband connection to provide mobile coverage indoors on a specific network. For example, Vodafone currently offers its 'SureSignal' product, Three has a product called 'Home Signal' and EE offers 'signal box'. You may be charged for this equipment.
  • Many providers now also offer the ability to make and receive calls and SMS messages over a Wi-Fi connection- whether at home or elsewhere. This can be useful where mobile network signals are weak. Some providers offer handsets with this built in- others may offer apps that you can download which enable you to access your calls and/or text allowance using a Wi-Fi connection.

Do you experience problems in one location, or is it happening everywhere you try and use your phone?

Make a note of the problem - where, when and what happened. This log will be useful if you need to contact your provider about the problem

If you are having problems using your phone in a place you haven’t tried to use it before, check what level of coverage should be expected at that location using Ofcom’s mobile coverage checker.

Moving home?

If you are moving home, check what kind of service your provider can offer at your new address. You can do this by talking to your provider or using Ofcom’s coverage checker.

If your provider isn’t able to provide the level of service you need at your new address, it’s worth asking them how much you would need to pay if you wanted to cancel, or whether a signal booster or other equipment to help improve coverage might be available. Companies’ policies on this differ; not all may require you to pay an early termination charge in these circumstances.

Could there be a fault with your handset or SIM?

If you’re having problems wherever you go in a number of different places then the issue could be with your handset.

Ask your provider for advice. They may ask you to carry out some checks to establish what is happening. For example, they may ask you to remove your SIM card, wipe it, and replace it to see if that helps. They may also ask you to put it into another (unlocked) device to check whether the problem is with your SIM card or your handset.

Is the issue affecting others?

The problem may be more widespread than just your mobile phone.

Most providers offer a 'service' or 'status' checker - either online or through an app - listing known big network issues.

This information should also be available by phone - either via an automated message, or from your provider’s customer service team. Often this information will tell you when they expect the problem will be fixed.

If your problem is not listed on the service checker, contact your provider as it may be they are not yet aware of it.

If you have been without the level of service you were promised, you may be able to claim compensation or other forms of redress - see below.

Who is responsible for fixing the fault?

Your contract is with your provider, and they are responsible for ensuring faults are fixed, and for keeping you informed of progress.

What if my provider doesn’t own the network?

Your provider is responsible even if they use another company’s network to provide their service to you.

How long should I wait for a repair?

In most cases, your provider should be able to establish reasonably quickly what has gone wrong and, if it is a network service issue, tell you how and when it will be fixed.

Ask your provider how they will keep you up to date on progress. This may be through their customer services team, a service app or by registering for fault update alerts which some providers offer.

Give your provider a reasonable opportunity to fix the problem. If you have done this already and are concerned about the time a repair is taking, escalate your concerns with your provider.

Staying connected while faults are sorted

Check with your provider whether they offer alternative ways of accessing your service while repairs are being carried out- they may offer a facility allowing you to make calls or send texts using a Wi-Fi connection - see above.

Am I entitled to redress?

Depending on the circumstances, it may be appropriate for your provider to offer you some money back while repairs are being carried out.

In more extreme cases, where repairs take much longer (for example it takes longer than usual to access a mast site to undertake repairs), you may be entitled to an additional refund or account credit.

In cases where you have been without service for some time, you may also have the right to leave the contract without penalty. There may be a term in your contract saying you can do this if your provider has failed in its obligations to you or breached a key condition.

How do I complain?

If your provider fails to repair a fault by the date promised, or you are unhappy with how long it is taking, you should follow their formal complaints procedure. Details should be available through their website or customer services.

If your problem is still unresolved after eight weeks you can submit your complaint to an independent Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme.

If your problem cannot be resolved, ask your provider for a ‘deadlock’ letter so that you can refer your dispute to the relevant ADR scheme directly before the eight week mark.

Ofcom has approved two ADR schemes - CISAS and Ombudsman Services: Communications.

Your provider will tell you which scheme it is a member of, or you can use our ADR checker.

Most providers offer a range of ways to contact them about a fault. These include via phone, online, a webchat facility or through a service app.

Contact your provider as soon as possible and try to describe the fault as best you can. Talk through the checks you have already carried out and explain how the issue is affecting your use of the service.

You may need to explain:

  • the times of day and locations where you are affected,
  • whether it affects voice/text and data,
  • if it is intermittent or continual.

If possible, send your provider a log of the interruptions to your service and the length of time each interruption lasted.