Revealed: the most complained about broadband providers

The latest Ofcom league tables on UK ISP complaints has just been published, revealing which telecoms and pay TV providers are underperforming

Tuesday, 14 September, 2021

Although we’re now into autumn, Ofcom has just published a league table of UK ISP complaints from the first quarter of this year.

The delay might seem excessive, but a lot of processing is involved in compiling this industry-wide report on consumer complaints about telecom and pay TV providers.

Other than two independent dispute resolution agencies, Ofcom is the main port of call for dissatisfied customers, since it serves as the industry’s watchdog and regulator.

As such, its quarterly league table of UK ISP complaints is closely studied for trends. And this latest survey is arguably more significant than most.

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Lock and loading

The first quarter of 2021 coincided with the UK’s third COVID-related lockdown, when online activities were often the only ones permitted.

Domestic internet connections had to support working, schooling, shopping and what passed for socialising, often at the same time.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that while complaints about mobile services didn’t increase in the first quarter of this year, broadband and home phone complaints reached a three-year high.

More surprisingly, most of this increase was down to just one company. Virgin Media was by far the worst-performing company across the landline, broadband and pay TV sectors.

A third of its broadband complaints related to faults and service, with billing and pricing vexing one in eight people.

Ironically, the biggest source of complaints (39 per cent) related to Virgin’s complaints handling procedures.

And while 33 complaints per 100,000 customers might sound reasonable, remember this relates to complaints directed to the industry regulator, not the ISPs themselves.

The second-worst figure of 24 was recorded by Vodafone and TalkTalk, typically covering the thorny trilogy of faults, service and provisioning issues.

In other words, when something goes wrong, ISPs aren’t necessarily as quick (or effective) at resolving them as consumers would like.

It’s worth noting that industry-wide complaints about broadband are less than half as common as they were eight years ago, though they have risen steeply during the last twelve months.

Rest of the best

Plusnet will be disappointed to find themselves on the wrong side of Ofcom’s industry average of 19 UK ISP complaints per 100,000 broadband customers.

Their figure of 21 is underwhelming though not disastrous, while BT’s figure of 15 is fairly respectable.

EE and Sky shared top billing, each attracting just seven complaints per 100,000 customers. That’s particularly impressive considering the wider societal issues at play during this time.

EE and Sky also mirrored each other’s performance in terms of landline complaints, leading the market with just five complaints per 100,000.

This compares against BT’s figure of nine, and the industry-average 11.

EE don’t offer pay TV services, but Sky’s services attracted a paltry two complaints per 100,000 subscribers. TalkTalk’s comparable figure was five, BT’s was eight and Virgin’s was 17.

And while very few consumers ever go so far as to register a complaint with Ofcom, these figures do underline the differences in performance between some of the UK’s leading ISPs.

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!