You might expect that our increasing adoption of (and reliance on) high-speed internet services would have caused a gradual year-on-year increase in broadband complaints.
In fact, the opposite is true.
Ofcom data released last November revealed that complaints about broadband services were at their lowest levels since 2010, when data was first collected.
Sky remains the least complained-about service, though EE has dramatically closed the gap and BT has also made great strides in reducing levels of complaints per 100,000 subscribers.
Yet even though consumers rarely place unrealistic expectations on their broadband providers, things can – and do – go wrong.
Knowing your consumer rights is crucial for achieving a speedy resolution, as is understanding the process for lodging and escalating broadband complaints.
Worth complaining about?
These are some of the issues which might justifiably provoke a broadband complaint:
Connection speeds. This remains the biggest cause of customer broadband complaints, if line speed isn’t sufficient for activities like video calling or streaming.
Regular outages. It’s understandable that broadband services might occasionally fall over, but it’s unacceptable for consumers to be offline even semi-regularly.
Installation delays. Broadband providers will ask for a day to set up new connections, and it’s rarely reasonable for installation to drag on any longer than this.
Billing problems. A lack of internal communication and misapplied discounts are leading causes of inaccurate billing, usually resulting in overcharging.
If any of these issues arise, this is how you should proceed:
- Firstly, ensure there’s a genuine fault. People have reported their internet being down because one website was offline following a DDoS attack, without checking other sites.
- Secondly, make sure you’re not responsible. Microfilters removed from wall sockets and loose cables are examples of domestic issues, rather than provider failings.
- If the problem isn’t as clear-cut as a sudden outage, check your contract’s small print to ensure the company is liable.
- If the issue isn’t a one-off, gather evidence. Run broadband speed checks, keep a diary of problems (recording exactly when they occur), and screen grab error messages.
- Contact your provider’s customer service team, and explain what’s wrong. Be polite, but summarise what’s happened and tell them how you expect this matter to be resolved.
- Make it clear where the blame lies. Your issue is with the provider, not a randomly assigned customer service rep. Avoid pejorative terms like “you” in any correspondence.
- If the issue is ongoing, make notes. Write down the times and dates of phone calls to your provider, along with the names of who you spoke to and what they promised to do.
- Switch to writing as quickly as possible. It’s hard to remember specifics of phone calls, but emailed or written complaints provide time-stamped and unambiguous records.
- Provide several ways to get in touch. Don’t assume an email address will be sufficient – give the provider your mobile phone number if they don’t already have it.
If the above approach doesn’t resolve your issue within eight weeks, or if you’re dissatisfied with your provider’s response, it’s time to escalate matters.
Every broadband provider in the UK is answerable to one of two Alternative Dispute Resolution services, which make impartial judgements on customer complaints.
Most providers are signed up to the Ombudsman Service for Communications, though a few are regulated by rival body CISAS.
You’ll find a list of which ADR service your provider is signed up to in our list here.
These agencies don’t charge a fee, and lodging a dispute doesn’t require a law degree or the involvement of a solicitor.
It’s important to ensure your claims and comments are factually accurate, since false or exaggerated allegations might raise questions over the legitimacy of any complaints.
Disputes can be raised about issues which have arisen in the preceding twelve months, but it’s up to the complainant to demonstrate their provider failed to deliver.
ADR schemes have the power to insist a broadband company pays reasonable compensation, or resolves issues to the customer’s satisfaction.
If the provider is still unable to do this (such as an intermittent connection fault), your best course of action involves seeking an alternative provider and demanding compensation.
Few broadband companies would refuse to release a customer from a contract or pay reasonable reparations, if an ADR scheme has already found against them.